As Peyton Manning began his second visit with the Denver Broncos' staff, the team prepared its offer, but has a new competitor in the San Francisco 49ers, according to reports.
Citing league sources, ESPN reported that San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to North Carolina and watched Manning throw passes Tuesday night at Duke, where Manning has been working out.
They were apparently impressed with what they saw. The 49ers sent a team doctor to Durham, N.C., the next day to have Manning undergo a physical, ESPN reported.
A source also dubbed the workout "very impressive," according to ESPN.
San Francisco had not emerged as a candidate for Manning's services beyond speculation through much of the process. But the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows pointed out in a blog that Manning's agent, Tom Condon, also represents the 49ers' free-agent quarterback, Alex Smith.
Smith, who led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game last year, has yet to sign a contract with San Francisco.
The Arizona Cardinals have also been told it might be best for them to continue their offseason plans without including Manning, according to ESPN.
The Cardinals were reportedly facing a 4 p.m. deadline Friday before a $7 million roster bonus for quarterback Kevin Kolb kicked in.
Arizona would face a tough time with the salary cap in paying Kolb the $7 million and signing Manning, so the heads-up likely would help its offseason planning.
The NFL Network's Jeff Darlington reported that Manning told the Miami Dolphins they were out.
That left the 49ers, Broncos and Tennessee Titans as the remaining suitors -- barring any late entrants.
Manning met with the Broncos at Duke University's indoor facility Friday afternoon, where he was scheduled to work out for them. Denver will offer him a five-year deal worth $60 million, with $30 million of it guaranteed, according to the Denver Post.
Manning has been working out at Duke with David Cutcliffe, his former offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, who now coaches at Duke.
The Broncos' evaluation of the workout could be crucial as the added competition from the 49ers, and Titans owner Bud Adams' aggressive pursuit and reported goal to make Manning a Titan "for life" have likely raised the price.
With the numbers going up, teams will have to weigh Manning's risk/reward factor with the future Hall of Famer coming off multiple neck surgeries last season.
The Titans, meanwhile, have signed guard Steve Hutchinson -- a perennial Pro Bowler who became friendly with Manning during their Pro Bowl trips -- to help their case.
For his part, Manning is making significant on-field progress.
"It's incredible how much progress he's made in throwing the football," Cutcliffe told the Tennessean. "He's gotten his arm strength back and his accuracy is there. I'm not an NFL coach, of course, but I think I know what it takes to complete passes in the NFL, and it's clear that Peyton can make all those throws."
If the Dolphins are indeed out, they haven't wasted time heading down a different path. They have contacted Matt Flynn, last seen backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Flynn was reportedly visiting the Seattle Seahawks, then set to visit the Dolphins. But he has a relationship with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, the former offensive coordinator in Green Bay.