The Peyton Manning sweepstakes are on, and while there can only be one winner in the quest to sign the future Hall of Famer, there's no limit to the number of losers that can join into this game.
While Manning's health is an obvious question mark that could determine whether anybody could even "win" the race for his services, even considering the possibility of chasing after the star could devastate a team's confidence and shake its foundation.
Already, fans have begun to recruit Manning, from billboards in Miami to countless Photoshop jobs depicting him in a new uniform. While the enthusiasm is understandable and mostly harmless coming from the stands, however, some current players are already weighing in to suggest a landing spot for the quarterback.
Anonymous Jets players seem to be falling over themselves running to the local papers and making their pitch for Manning. Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett also tweeted out a picture of Peyton in a Cardinals uniform, saying "Let's be honest!!! Who wouldn't want this!"
You know who wouldn't want that, Darnell? Your current quarterback, Kevin Kolb.
In the rush to recruit the future Hall of Famer, teams run the risk of cannibalizing their rosters and turning teammate against teammate. The Cardinals signed Kolb to a five-year, $63.5 million contract extension with $21 million guaranteed after sending the Philadelphia Eagles one of their best defensive players and a second-round pick.
Now, less than a year removed from the ink drying on that deal, one of the Cardinals' star players is openly and emphatically stating his desire for the team to throw all of that out of the window and reboot with Manning. How do you think that will go over in Phoenix?
This is only the tip of the iceberg for the NFL. Teams will line up around the block for a chance to talk to Manning, but it's a major Catch-22. Yes, there are plenty of teams who would love to ply his services this fall. But if they show their hand too early, and he signs somewhere else, they run the risk of alienating their current quarterback and short-circuiting their season before it has a chance to get underway.
The Jets management, to their credit, appear to have realized as much before too much damage was done. They know their quarterback situation is already so tenuous that they can't risk Mark Sanchez completely losing his confidence if they chase after Manning in any small way and don't follow through to sign him.
It remains to be seen how many other teams realize that until it's too late.