Manning Moves, Tebow Trades and Smith Signs. Plus the rest of the big Free Agency news in the NFL

Many would have assumed that the biggest story of the week would be, the frankly predictably, strong showings of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at their pro-days ahead of April’s draft. That was until the newswires went bananas between Monday and Wednesday. Peyton Manning’s soap opera ended when he rejected moves to the 49ers and the Titans in favour of a 5-year $96million move to Mile High. Manning has gone on record to suggest that he is not 100% fit yet and admitted to being ‘disappointed’ with his strength in workouts but would be ready to play if the NFL season started on Sunday. With a very good defensive unit in place and a flexible offensive coordinator onside, the stage is set for Peyton to return back to the spotlight and prove to the world again why he is one of the NFL’s greatest ever quarterbacks.

Every move in free agency has winners and losers and the biggest loser, at least initially, was the Bronco’s very own miracle boy Tim Tebow. Vice President of Football Operations John Elway was never totally sold on Tebow and always stopped short of full backing for him as Tebow led the Bronco’s to a 7-1 record as a starter and a shock playoff victory. Although some had suggested that Manning could help develop Tebow as a player it quickly became apparent that the former Florida Gator’s future lay elsewhere. Despite strong links with his collegiate home state and the Miami Dolphins ‘Tebow time’ will be taking place in New York after the Jets acquired him to apply further pressure to the under-fire Mark Sanchez. The reaction has been mixed with Antonio Cromartie suggesting via twitter that Rex Ryan shouldn’t have wasted draft choices drafting a backup quarterback and should instead have supplied more weapons for Sanchez to aim at.

As a result of these two momentous moves other quarterback’s futures have become clearer. The 49ers and Alex Smith finally agreed on a 3-year $24million dollar deal. Smith attempted to paper over the cracks by suggesting that his try out with the Dolphins was merely an opportunity to see Miami beach. I’m sure many people will view this statement with an air of cynicism and scepticism but it would appear that Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith are looking forward to winning together rather than looking back at a tough free agency period. On the bright side Smith now has a greatly improved receiving corps to aim at after Mario Manningham and Randy Moss were added to the unit.  The Titans quarterback will be decided in training camp as Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker go head to head for the stating job while the Miami Dolphins are still looking to sign a new franchise quarterback after missing on Manning, Smith and Tebow. The Jacksonville Jaguars also failed to draw Tebow to Florida and will have to hope that Blaine Gabbert can step up his performances enough to bring a winning record on the board, and equally importantly, fill their stadium. The Arizona Cardinals also chose not to chase Peyton Manning and kept faith with last season’s big trade signing Kevin Kolb.

Elsewhere in the league veteran Colts Centre Jeff Saturday is deciding whether he will rejoin Peyton Manning in Denver or move to Superbowl XLV Champions the Green Bay Packers after visits to both sides this week. The Bills ramped up their defensive unit by giving the biggest defensive contract in NFL history to former Texans and All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams. The 6-year $100 million deal includes $50 million in guaranteed money and came just days after the Detroit Lions made Calvin Johnson the best paid player in NFL history ($131million over 8-years with $53million guaranteed). The Bills further improved their pass rush with the addition of former Patriot’s Defensive End Mark Anderson on a slightly more modest 4-year $28million contract. Other Patriots on the move include former running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who completed a move from New England to Cincinnati to provide where he will work in tandem with Cedric Benson in 2012. Despite looking like he was a yard short of pace at the end of last season Ronde Barber resigned with the Buccaneers while Bronco’s DT Broderick Bunkley completed his move to the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday.


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