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The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis officially came to an end Wednesday at noon, as the team’s 14-year quarterback held a nationally televised press conference with Colts owner Jim Irsay, who announced that the team was cutting Manning. Manning missed the entire 2011 season following multiple neck procedures and was due a $28 million bonus this month.
However, after a 2-14 season landed the Colts with the number one overall draft pick and the opportunity to bring in the highly touted quarterback out of Stanford, Andrew Luck, both sides were in agreement that it would be in their best interest to part ways.
There had been an abundance of chatter over the last few months about the possibility of Manning calling it a career due to a cloud of uncertainty about his ability to return from this serious neck surgery continuously hovering in the picture. Manning completely put that notion to bed when asked after making his speech at the press conference, however. He stated, “Well, I don’t want to retire,” and continued, “Nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do, and I still want to play.”
Twelve teams have already expressed interest in signing Manning, but only seven have been confirmed thus far – the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, and Seattle Seahawks. The Jets, though, pulled out of the Manning race over the weekend after giving their young quarterback, Mark Sanchez, a three-year contract extension. Rumors have also included teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans. Manning has said that he will sign with a new team within the next week.
Which team would offer Manning, not only a chance to make it to the Super Bowl next year, but the best chance overall? The answer would have to be the Houston Texans. Although the Colts were Manning-less all year long in 2011, do not think for even one moment that the Texans’ ensuing level of success was a fluke by any means. Last season was the greatest in Texans franchise history–one in which they clinched their first ever AFC South title, playoff berth, and victory.
Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were both placed on IR with major injuries during the regular season, but rookie third-string quarterback T.J. Yates had plenty of talent around him to win a playoff game after making his five regular season starts. Despite all of the other interested/potentially interested teams having their own share of talent, the Texans certainly boast more than anyone else.
The depth of the Texans roster begins on the outside with their wide receivers. Andre Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the elite deep threats in the league with his lethal combination of size and speed. Jacoby Jones, a fifth year receiver, shows great promise as one of the faster wide-outs in the game.
Their starting tight end, Owen Daniels, has become one of the more consistent players at his position as well. Houston’s starting running back, Arian Foster, also gives the Texans one of the most dangerous running attacks out there. With Ben Tate behind him, the team led the league in rushing at 159.5 yards per game.
And the Houston defense? Well, they were no joke either. They ranked in the top five in the league in all defensive categories, despite missing Pro Bowler Mario Williams for much of the season, were second in both passing and rushing, and first in yards per game.
The AFC South, as Manning knows from playing his whole career there, is one of the weaker divisions in all of football. This would only improve his chances of making it to the promise land even more. Houston appears to be the way to go for Peyton.
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