A Look Ahead to Texan Free Agency, and Why It Won't Involve Peyton Manning

Categories: Sports

Photo illustration by Monica Fuentes
Spoiler alert: The pigs won't fly.
It was less than a month ago when I believed the Texans would consider making a play for quarterback Peyton Manning.

But on the verge of the NFL's free-agent signing bonanza on Tuesday, it looks as though any Texans changes will be on a smaller scale -- and rightfully so.

It seems clear the Texans are the preferred destination for Manning. That sentiment was first reported by ABC-13's Bob Allen in early February and echoed by ESPN's Chris Mortensen last Friday.

After all, Houston has such a strong running game and defense that if not for a Jacoby Jones muff, it might have been a Super Bowl team with fifth-round rookie T.J. Yates at quarterback.

Add Andre Johnson to the mix, and it's the dream scenario for a veteran quarterback hoping to win championships.

If healthy, Manning could be that guy. It doesn't look as though he's willing to prove it, however.
Visits to Denver and Arizona concluded without Manning throwing a single pass. For a quarterback whose future success will hinge on the regeneration of nerves in his throwing arm, it's reckless to gamble without a physical examination.

When your quarterbacks are Tim Tebow and Kevin Kolb and your team isn't a contender, it might be worth the gamble. When your quarterback is Matt Schaub and you already have a contender, it probably isn't.

Mario might remain a Texan
If Manning truly wants to be a Texan, there's a way he could do it. He could hold off signing until he's able to go through a workout with general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak, proving his ability to make NFL throws on a regular basis.

If he can, he's undoubtedly an upgrade on Schaub, and Texan officials know it.

But reports say that Manning hopes to sign this week -- before putting on such a display for any team. In other words, he likes the Texans, but not enough to pull out all the stops.
That's not good enough.

Any team that signs Manning will undoubtedly be forced to trade their prior starter (in this case, Schaub), making Yates the back-up plan if Manning's arm doesn't recover to an NFL level.
The Texans have been there and done that. They would prefer not to try it again.

Other tidbits:
4. Don't worry about media reports of how much money the Texans may not have. The truth is that we don't know. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain reported last summer that the team was too cash-strapped to make a serious play for marquee corners Nnamdi Asomugha or Johnathan Joseph, at one point claiming Houston would have to restructure every contract on the team in order to get it done. In reality, the Texans went after both, successfully signed Joseph and also added safety Danieal Manning -- all without significant restructuring or cuts.

The Texans, like any smart organization, want to keep expectations within reason. If they were going to make a major bid on Manning, for example, they wouldn't leak interest until such a deal was signed and delivered. Likewise, while most pundits give them no shot to keep outside linebacker Mario Williams, the Texans have no incentive to counter that speculation. It's best to keep talks under the radar.

It might be true that the Texans never had any interest in Manning. It might be true that they can't afford Mario Williams, or that they're legitimately worried about losing starting center Chris Myers. However, I wouldn't believe it simply because of an anonymous source-led report from a beat reporter. Smith and Kubiak want things as quiet as possible. The Texans fooled the media last summer, and it could easily be the case this week, too. Keep an open mind.

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