Plenty of Broncos boosters have been in a state of giddiness since the signing of Peyton Manning.
But here's something capable of pouring cold water on overheated fans: Bleacher Report's list of five NFL free agency moves sure to backfire is topped by none other than Mr. Manning.
Bleacher Report columnist Amelia Ahlgren doesn't skimp on the invective when it comes to the acquisition, saying that the $96 million shell-out will leave the Broncos "mile high and dry."
Why? Although Manning is guaranteed $18 million next season, she believes he's no longer capable of playing at a level commensurate with the salary due to the four neck surgeries he's undergone over the past nineteen months. She writes:
No. 18 could suffer from diminished arm strength and reduced throwing velocity as a result of the surgeries.
And even if he manages to hit the field at full strength this September, it may only be a matter of time before his injuries flare up again.
As Ahlgren notes, a Sports Illustrated item from February quoted an Indianapolis Colts source expressing concern that "Manning's neck injuries have reached the chronic stage, and that there could be a genetic aspect to his condition." Based on such reports, she concludes that Manning will likely miss "at least a few games this season," and she doesn't seem impressed by his presumed backup, Caleb Hanie.
Her bottom line: "The Broncos are sunk if Manning falters. Sure, the upside will be big if Manning pans out. But don't count on it. John Elway will be reeling after this free agency move plays out."
This, my friends, is the worst-case scenario, and we all know it could happen. But will it? Undoubtedly the Broncos did their due diligence when checking out Manning's health, and the fact that not only Denver but plenty of other franchises were willing to throw armored trucks' worth of cash in his direction suggests that medically he appears ready to go.
Trouble is, neck injuries are notoriously difficult to assess. Recall that Manning's return to the Colts was promised month after month after month, only to be delayed when his healing process took longer than anticipated.
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Yet even if Manning isn't able to stay healthy for the next three or four years, or if his performances fall below the level of his previous glories, I have a feeling the Broncos will still see the move as beneficial for one big reason -- it got the squad out from under the Tim Tebow controversy. Now, The Chosen One is the Jets' problem, and at whatever point Manning hangs up his spikes, Elway and the Denver braintrust will be able to move forward with their guy, not one foisted upon them by disaster-maker Josh McDaniels.
Still, the picture Ahlgren paints can't help but put at least a minor chill on Manning mania. Here's hoping her crystal ball is cracked.
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More from our Sports archive: "Peyton Manning: Top Ten things non-sports fans should know about him."