Even as quarterback Peyton Manning began finalizing a contract with the Denver Broncos on Monday, the drama of his historic free-agent adventure continued to impact several other teams and players.
The domino effect of Manning's decision will first touch Tim Tebow, the dynamic quarterback who led the Broncos into the playoffs last year but whose unusual abilities will need to find a new home. Other teams and players who could be affected include:
--Quarterback Alex Smith, who reportedly was offered a multi-year contract by the Miami Dolphins, whom he visited Sunday in search of security after the San Francisco 49ers team he led to the NFC Championship Game last season began pursuing Manning.
--Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was on the bubble when Tennessee owner Bud Adams went in hot pursuit of Manning, now will remain with the Titans and continue to mentor 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker.
--Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne: The Jacksonville Jaguars spent a first-round pick on Gabbert last year, and his struggles helped lead to signing Henne as a free agent. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy-winning superstar at the University of Florida and his presence in Jacksonville would certainly improve fan enthusiasm and team income.
--Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose college coach, Mike Sherman, is now with the Dolphins, who have the eighth pick in the draft. Tannehill may seem a lot more attractive to the Dolphins if they are unable to land Smith.
--Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, who is still the incumbent starter. But Miami might be a landing spot for Tebow ... and/or Tannehill.
--Center Jeff Saturday, the center who has snapped the ball to Manning since he took over as the Colts starter in 2000. He is now on the market as a free agent, as is former Colts tight end Dallas Clark.
--Wide receiver Mike Wallace, the former Steeler who is possibly the best deep threat still available as a free agent, might be more interested in Denver, where he could be Manning's main target.
From a general NFL fan perspective, the most intriguing situation is that of Tebow, who was 7-4 as a starter and led the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff victory over Pittsburgh last season. But serious questions remain about his ability to progress as a passer, and the Broncos had to drastically alter their offense to suit Tebow's style.
But his superstar status is an extremely attractive drawing card, especially in South Florida, a few minutes from South Beach and a few hours from where Tebow went to college. Jacksonville needs somebody to attract fans and the Dolphins need to show they can attract anybody. Even if he doesn't run the West Coast offense new coach Joe Philbin wants to use, Tebow would at least be a big name Miami showed it could sign.
The Dolphin organization has been rejected by coach Jim Harbaugh, who chose the 49ers; Manning, who rejected them last week and quarterback Matt Flynn, who agreed to a deal with Seattle on Sunday. In light of all that, acquiring Tebow would be a coup.
In San Francisco, Harbaugh is in an awkward position. First he insisted Smith was his quarterback and issued a three-year, $24 million offer to prove it. Then he flew to North Carolina last Tuesday in an unsuccessful attempt to sign Manning. Now, Smith is looking at a multi-year offer from the Dolphins reported to be worth $8 million per season, basically the same annual salary as the 49ers were willing to pay.
Smith will need to reconcile whatever feelings that were created by Harbaugh's pursuit of Manning against the reality of what his best situation might be, financially and competitively. The 49ers have a proven team and a solid coaching staff, which is in stark contrast to the Miami situation. Smith might be able to leverage the Miami negotiations into a better offer from the 49ers.
Unless they sign somebody else, San Francisco's option at quarterback is Colin Kaepernick, the 36th pick in the 2011 draft after starring as the triggerman in Nevada-Reno's prolific Pistol offense.