Jim Trotter over at CNN.SI is reporting that a "mystery" team is preparing to enter the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, but his lips remain sealed as to what team that is.
We can do a process of elimination in coming to a conclusion just what that team might be.
Of course the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins have already been bandied about. It is safe to assume that Trotter is not referring to them.
This leaves only a few options. Teams that are not going to be in contention for a playoff spot in 2012 are probably not going to waste their time on trying to woo Manning. Therefore, you can probably eliminate the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Minnesota Vikings from consideration.
What contending team outside the five listed above need a quarterback?
The San Francisco 49ers would be pretty much the only team that comes to mind at this point. They have remained steadfast in the idea of bringing back Alex Smith for the 2012 season and beyond, actually stating that they have not talked about Manning internally.
Recent events suggest that the 49ers and Smith remain far apart in contract negotiations, which baffles me a great deal. Either Smith is overplaying his market value or the 49ers are interested in looking at other options. Either way, it does seem that he is going to hit the free agent market later this week.
Where does that leave the 49ers?
At this point I fully expect the 49ers to bring in a couple free agent quarterbacks for visits, if only to put some pressure on Alex Smith once free agency starts. In doing so, San Francisco could easily kick the tires on Manning.
After all, it is safe to assume that San Francisco would be the best fit for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. They have a solid running game with Frank Gore and Kendell Hunter, a great tight end in Vernon Davis, and one of the best defenses in the entire NFL.
In short, they are a true Super Bowl contender. This is what Manning is said to be looking for in terms of making a decision of where he going to play in 2012.
Tony Dungy, Manning's former coach with the Colts, has suggested that the best fit is San Francisco at this point and he isn't wrong. It goes without saying that the 49ers' brass would have to agree with this assumption. Just because San Francisco is an ideal spot for Manning it doesn't mean that he is ideal for them.
It might be pure conjecture at this point, but I see no harm in San Francisco entertaining the idea of signing Manning.
Complicating things further is the fact that the New York Jets just came to an absurd contract extension with Mark Sanchez, who is a lesser quarterback than Smith. This means that the 49ers quarterback will probably use that deal as a starting off point for contract negotiations. That would be foolish, San Francisco isn't going to pay Smith anywhere near $60 million over three seasons, that just isn't going to happen.
This new-found stalemate between the 49ers and Smith has left open the door that Manning could end up in a San Francisco uniform.
I guess we will have to see what happens over the course of the next few days as this remains an extremely fluid situations. One thing is for sure, Smith returning to the 49ers is not the certainty that it was once thought to be.