Raleigh, N.C. The 49ers are in the chase for Peyton Manning. The Dolphins and Cardinals are out. And the Broncos and Titans want to make sure the four-time NFL MVP is healthy.
After a brief lull, the pursuit of Manning sure got interesting in a hurry Friday.
The year’s top free agent, who has been rehabbing in North Carolina after a string of neck surgeries, threw the football at Duke’s athletic facilities for Hall of Fame QB turned Broncos executive John Elway along with Denver coach John Fox.
The workout lasted a little under two hours, and when it was over Elway seemed convinced that Manning is still Manning.
“We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C.,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there.”
A few minutes later, Elway posted: “Watching him throw today was the next step in this important process for our team and Peyton. It was a productive visit and went well.”
Whether San Francisco executives and coaches feel the same way, they weren’t saying.
But they also have shown interest in the man who led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl victory in 2007. A person familiar with the situation said that Manning worked out for 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday night at Duke. ESPN first reported on the session.
Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe was Manning’s offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee and the two remain friends.
As it became clear the 49ers were in the race, Miami and Arizona dropped out.
Another person confirmed to the AP that Manning phoned the Miami Dolphins on Thursday to advise them he’ll sign elsewhere. The team has now turned its attention to free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn.
The people who spoke to the AP did so on condition of anonymity because Manning’s workouts have remained private and most teams involved have refused to comment on their free-agency negotiations.
The Cardinals decided to pay quarterback Kevin Kolb the $7 million roster bonus he was due today, ending their pursuit of Manning. Arizona hosted Manning for about 6 1/2 hours at the team’s facility on Sunday, but the team’s chances faded as the week progressed.
“Acquiring Peyton Manning is no longer an option for us,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
After he missed the entire 2011 season, Manning’s uncertain health led the Colts to balk at the $28 million roster bonus they would have owed their 35-year-old leader on March 8. So they released him, ending his long and incredibly successful run with Indy.
Now the question is which club will land a quarterback who could make a team an instant Super Bowl contender.