After Peyton Manning and the Broncos ended the season of our beloved New England Patriots last Sunday, audio clips of a postgame embrace between the Denver quarterback and New England head coach Bill Belichick began to surface. In the exchange between the two, Manning is heard telling Belichick that "this might be my last rodeo."
The quote implies that the upcoming Super Bowl could very well be the last game that Peyton Manning plays in his career. A Super Bowl win for Manning would probably lead to the previously mentioned exit from the NFL, as picking up a second ring would be an ideal way to end the career of a player that, as much as I hate to say it, is one of the best to ever do it.
Should the Broncos come up short against the Carolina Panthers, Manning could very well decide that he's not quite ready to hang it up. Should that be the case, the result could be a (sort of) significant hit to his legacy.
Whether the Denver Broncos win Super Bowl 50 or not, if Manning was to return next season, his projected cap hit would be a ridiculous $21.5 million. Denver has several key players needing new deals and the Broncos appear to be ready to hand the keys to the franchise over to quarterback Brock Osweiler. Not sure where Manning's huge deal fits in.
With those factors in play, there is no chance whatsoever that Manning's contract would be retained. Broncos GM John Elway would be put in a tricky situation, especially if Manning were to help Denver win a Super Bowl, but if Manning chose to play another season it would almost certainly have to be in another city.
Now, this is where the hit to his legacy comes in.
Think about it; what all-time great NFL quarterback was forced to bounce around from team-to-team because he was no longer wanted by his former team? Sure, Brett Favre played for multiple teams, but you can explain that one away with the fact that the Green Bay Packers had Aaron Rodgers waiting.
ESPN and the rest of the national media is practically worshiping Manning right now, but don't let that fool you, Peyton was absolutely horrendous on the field for much of this season. If Peyton decides to return to the NFL next season, he will undoubtedly be even worse on the field.
Combine another terrible season with a third team and the fact that he would have then been cut twice, and I think it's fair to say you have yourself at the very least a small hit to the legacy of Peyton Manning.
By Jacob Young