Before we get started, I would like to make it known that this isn't an anti-Alex Smith campaign by any means. If you read yesterday's feature, I made it clear that I am behind Smith and have been thrilled with his performance this season. But the fact of the matter is Smith's contract expires at the end of this season and decisions will need to be made.
As most of you have probably taken notice, the Indianapolis Colts are yet to win a game and could very well finish this season 0-16. If that is the case, the Colts would have the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and their hand would be inevitably forced to select Andrew Luck. Considering Peyton Manning's age and health issues, if they were ever going to move him and move forward, now would be the time where they could yield the highest profit.
It's also peculiar that Indy didn't bother putting a claim in for Kyle Orton when he became available. I don't believe they are committed or desperate to win a game this season, looking at 0-10. They have Carolina, New England, Baltimore, Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville left on the schedule, who are all good enough to blow out the Manning-less Colts.
So, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is now on the trading block.
This would immediately send the league into a frenzy with likely 2/3 of club's trying to acquire him. Only 10-15 out of 32 teams have what most would consider a franchise quarterback and that's what you're getting with Manning. So, with 15-20 teams pursuing one player, we need to narrow down the potential teams. If the Colts were going to trade him, I don't think they would send him to a bad situation and Manning would have some level of say with what the Colts do like he always has.
Teams that would likely be aggressive in talks would be the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and the Cleveland Browns. If I'm selecting 5 teams that would be willing to bet the house on a gamechanger like Manning, these are the organizations I could make the strongest cases for. However, the San Francisco 49ers are a wildcard in this discussion.
Alex Smith could move on to another organization after showing what he was able to do with good coaching and a fitting offensive system. With Smith moving on, the 49ers would be looking for a veteran quarterback who could step in for 2-4 seasons while rookie Colin Kaepernick develops under said veteran. I ask, what better veteran quarterback to fill that role than Peyton Manning?
Now, getting back to trade talks, I think overall what gives the 49ers an edge is their #1 ranked defense. The Colts defense was good enough to keep them winning, but it isn't that hard when your quarterback is putting up 49 points a game. In his 14 seasons, Manning has never had a defense like the one in San Francisco. It would be complete and utter domination to combine Manning and the future of this 49er defense.
"Hey, Peyton, you like to throw to your tight ends? We've got great ones in the Bay Area." Dallas Clark has been and will forever be linked with Manning and many of his great performances. But Clark is not the tight end Vernon Davis is; Manning would have a field day taking advantage of the mismatches Davis presents. Let's not forget about Delanie Walker either.
Despite what the Baltimore Ravens were able to do the 49ers on Thanksgiving, with Adam Snyder healthy and starting at right guard, this is an exceptional offensive line unit. This is a group with a high ceiling and they are on the rise. One of Manning's concerns will be protection, especially given the neck injury.
What hasn't Manning ever really had? A top running back. With the exception of Edgerrin James, Manning has never really been able to hand the ball off with high hopes. Frank Gore is an elite back in the NFL right now, and the two of them together could be frightening for defensive coordinators. What do you call when Frank Gore and Peyton Manning are on the same team?
So, assuming this is enough to convince Manning and the Colts to get a deal done with San Francisco, we're left wondering what it would it take and would the Niners be willing to go for it. Likely not, but in this case, we are going to move forward assuming the best case scenario. The best case scenario is that Jim Harbaugh is thinking about the future and Kaepernick, while in the meantime, believes Manning can come in and win.
49er fans would also need to hope that man love strikes twice and that Harbaugh and Manning connect on a football level where it's about the team and winning right now, one game at a time until they're hoisting the Lombardi Trophy together. Presuming Manning's contract gets restructured and the Colts are willing to be reasonable, let's say the 49ers and Colts strike a deal and now #18 is in the Bay Area.
This team is now potentially unbeatable. Manning connecting with Braylon Edwards, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Delanie Walker, Kendall Hunter --- it's just overwhelming for any defense. And the 49ers defense will benefit tremendously from practicing against Peyton Manning; Patrick Willis and the secondary in particular.
And speaking of practice, Kaepernick will be able to learn from Jim Harbaugh and Peyton Manning, which is arguably a better environment than Aaron Rodgers had. Kaepernick could develop into a Steve Young-esque quarterback; athletic, intelligent and can make plays with his arm and his legs.
We could exit the Manning-Gore era and gracefully transition into the Kaepernick-Hunter era. Now, I'd like to reiterate that this is all completely hypothetical and unlikely but stranger things have happened. And similar things have happened. Let's not forget Joe Montana was a Kansas City Chief and Jerry Rice was an Oakland Raider.
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80