The Miami Dolphins still think they're in the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes, no matter what others say. They think they could still win the big prize.
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The Peyton Watch officially ended for the Dolphins on Thursday when Peyton Manning personally called the team to reject their offer to play quarterback next year, according to NFL.com.
While the Dolphins and their fans may be disappointed that Manning isn't coming to South Florida, the closure could be seen as good. Now the team can focus all of its attention on free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, the former Green Bay backup.
Flynn was in Seattle on Friday to meet with the Seahawks, who are considered the Dolphins' top - and maybe only - competition to land him. The Dolphins are scheduled to meet with Flynn this weekend.
While some Dolphins fans were worried Seattle would entice Flynn with an attractive contract offer that would make him accept on the spot, Flynn was expected to make his Dolphins visit no matter what, according to a report by ESPN Radio in Milwaukee.
Once in Miami, Flynn will be familiar with his host - new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who was Flynn's offensive coordinator for four years in Green Bay. Flynn, 26, would be a good fit to run new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's West Coast Offense. Though Flynn has only two career starts, he made a name for himself by throwing for over 700 yards and nine touchdowns in those games.
But the Seahawks make sense for Flynn, too - they want to upgrade from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, they also run a West Coast Offense and their general manager, John Schneider, was in Green Bay's front office when the Packers drafted Flynn four years ago.
Still, the Dolphins are the more logical fit, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Friday morning that the Dolphins appear to be the team to land Flynn, considered the second-best quarterback in free agency.
The Dolphins have around $5 million in salary cap space, and might have to restructure or release one or more veteran contracts to sign Flynn. The quarterback could command around $7 million per season.
Many observers believe Flynn would be best-served by playing for Philbin, a coach who knows him well.
"Flynn, I believe, can be a successful NFL starter, but he must be carefully manipulated by the schematics of the passing game, and helped by the play-calling," said Greg Cosell of NFL Films. "It would make good sense for Flynn to join his former offensive coordinator in Miami. Philbin understands from personal experience Flynn's strengths and limitations."
As for Manning, he worked out for Denver in Durham, N.C. on Friday and eliminated Arizona from his list as finalists, in addition to the Dolphins. But a mystery team may have jumped into the mix when ESPN reported that San Francisco had worked out Manning and given him a physical earlier this week.
The 49ers have said publicly that they want to bring back quarterback Alex Smith, who is a free agent, but Smith remains unsigned. The Niners, who were an overtime field goal away from reaching this year's Super Bowl, could steal Manning away from Denver or Tennessee, presumed to be the favorites.
Noteworthy: The Dolphins hosted free agent defensive end Mark Anderson on Friday. Anderson, 28, has 35 1/2 career sacks in seven seasons with Chicago, Houston and New England, including 10 last year for the Patriots. The Dolphins also re-signed defensive lineman Ryan Baker to a one-year contract.
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