Peyton Manning will throw one more pass in practice. He will watch one more minute of film. He will add one more play to the game-planning discussion.
This is how Manning prepares for a game. Imagine how thorough he is now as he makes not only a major football career move for himself, but a life-changing decision for his family. He is the only four-time MVP in NFL history, an 11-time Pro Bowler, a two-time Super Bowl participant and a one-time holder of the Lombardi Trophy.
And he is in uncharted territory. He is a free agent because of a confluence of reasons — bum neck, $28 million bonus payment at a time when his longtime team, the Indianapolis Colts, fell into the No. 1 draft pick as young quarterback Andrew Luck became eligible.
But there are four NFL teams that don't care how he got in this spot. The Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals are the finalists for his services, with a decision expected to be made soon, possibly today.
The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers, who never engaged in serious pursuit but were in contact with Manning's representatives during the process, no longer are candidates, according to an NFL source.
Manning did not make his decision, as hoped, by the open of the league's free-agent market at 2 p.m. MDT on Tuesday. One source said the Broncos are in his final two, along with Tennessee. Another NFL source said the Broncos are there, with Miami the team to worry about. Manning did not meet with Tennessee officials on Wednesday, as expected. Reports out of Tennessee are that they might meet today.
Either way, the Broncos are strongly in the mix. Manning likes that coach John Fox will give him carte blanche over the offense, and he believes Denver is the kind of market that would provide a quality of life for his wife, Ashley, and twins Marshall and Mosley, who will turn 1 on March 31.
One concern Manning may have about the Broncos is the possibility of playing in cold-weather games. For a quarterback coming off four neck surgeries who will soon celebrate his 36th birthday — Broncos front office boss John Elway, remember, was pretty much forced to retire because of aching knees at 38 — it's an understandable concern.
Just not a justifiable concern. According to the Broncos' expansive media guide, in the 519 home games the team has played in its 52-season history, the average temperature at kickoff is 60.1 degrees. Even for December and January home games, the average temperature for each month is a mild 44 degrees. Manning just worked up a sweat throwing passes to his buddy Brandon Stokley on a bright, warm Saturday morning in early March.
Then there is the roster talent to consider, and among his four choices, Manning can see holes everywhere. The Titans were 9-7 last year. The Broncos and Cardinals were 8-8. The Dolphins were 6-10.
Manning, of course, can singlehandedly improve all of those records, if he can stay healthy after a year of four neck surgeries. In his final 10 playing seasons, 2001-10, Manning led the Colts to a combined 119-41 record, or an average of 12-4.
The Dolphins may not have helped themselves by trading receiver Brandon Marshall on Tuesday. Manning, according to an NFL source, had enough people vouch for the troubled-but-talented receiver that he had considered Marshall a Dolphins asset.
Manning met with the Broncos on Friday, the Cardinals on Sunday and the Dolphins on Monday. A visit with the Titans had been placed on hold Tuesday. There were multiple reports Tuesday night that he will meet with the Titans today.
One asset for the Titans: As members of the AFC South, they would provide him with a chance to smoke the Colts twice a season.
Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org