I have long been skeptical of the notion the Jets could land Manning. I have said as much both to people on this site and in person. It is great to bounce the idea around, but there was not even any indication whether the Colts were willing to part with him or whether he wanted to continue his career after a neck injury kept him from playing in 2011. Indications are that Manning might indeed be leaving Indianapolis.
If Peyton does want to continue his career, he is in the driver's seat. He can pretty much choose the team he wants. Manning has more than enough money set aside. While I expect him to command a salary in line with other top tier quarterbacks, I do not think he is going to simply sell himself to the highest bidder. The last few years of his career will present him a chance to enhance an already incredible legacy.
To determine where he will end up, we would have to answer many questions that are not known. What team would give him the best supporting cast? Which coaching staff would he feel most comfortable with? Would he want to play in a big market? Would he want to go to the NFC so he would not compete with the Colts? Would he want to play in a warm weather city? Would he want to play in the same city as his brother? How much would he want to reunite with Tom Moore? I cannot answer these questions. You cannot either. Only Peyton can. We can only talk about whether the Jets should be interested if Manning can be had.
First I think we need to recognize that any team that signs him is going to do a thorough medical examination. Not doing so for a guy coming off a serious neck injury would be irresponsible. Suffice it to say any team that brings Manning in is going to be sure he is past the neck ailment.
If Manning is healthy and interested, I do not see any real debate. For the Jets not to go all in to try and land him would amount to malpractice in my book.
Peyton Manning is not Brett Favre. Favre was older when the Jets got him. Manning is a much better player than Favre was. There is something else to consider. The Jets gave Favre a middle of the pack defense, not a top five unit like the Jets could give Manning. Had the Jets given Favre the kind of supporting cast the team has now, his time with the Jets might have ended differently. Just look at what happened a year later when the Vikings gave Favre a complete football team.
The Jets might have other holes to fill like safety and outside linebacker. Quarterback is more important than any of them. If you have a top tier quarterback, you are a contender in the NFL. If you have a top tier safety or outside linebacker, you might not be. To suggest these are higher priorities would be inaccurate in my book. For all of their issues at these spots, the Jets were still a top five defense. Having a 21st ranked passing game was the big reason the team missed the Playoffs. Turn it into a top tier passing game, and this team is as good as any in the league.
How about that hole at right tackle? Manning's incredible pocket presence would make pass protection look a lot better. He has an innate ability to know just when to get the ball out. The man won the MVP with Tony Ugoh protecting his blind side for Pete's sake.
Manning coming to the Jets would mean the end of Mark Sanchez. The team would need to get rid of Sanchez to clear over $9 million in cap space to make it work. I think it would be worth it. Manning would give the Jets top tier quarterback play for the next two to three years. There is no indication that would be the case with Sanchez. The Jets are a team ready to win now. What is holding them back above all else is an anemic passing game. Manning would probably greatly increase the numbers of Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes. Some say the team doesn't have the money. Mike Tannenbaum should find the money to make it work.
Manning also might be the one quarterback who could convince Rex Ryan to open up the offense and rely on the passing game. Combine the defense Ryan has with an offense that can put up a ton of points, and the Jets become very dangerous.
I cannot say whether Peyton Manning would have any interest in the Jets even if he chooses and is healthy enough to play in 2012. I can think of at least one team in need of a quarterback that would provide a more attractive option, the San Francisco 49ers. He would get the same great defense, a better run game, better weather, a team out of the AFC, and less of a circus. What I can say is that the Jets should do everything in their power to try and get him if there is a chance.