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Peyton Manning bound for AFC East?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  March 7, 2012 10:27 AM

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The Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning are parting ways today, and a news conference with Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay will be held at the team's facility.

Signs have pointed to a split between Manning and the Colts for some time - there is a $28 million option bonus in his contract that's due Thursday and the sides couldn't agree on an incentive-laden restructuring. Plus, after their difficult, Manning-less season, Indianapolis has once again garnered the top spot in the NFL draft, which once again features a quarterback believed to be a once-in-a-generation talent in Andrew Luck.

Still, it is a bit strange to think of Manning in another uniform.

Some of the best games the NFL has seen over the last decade have included Manning's Colts and Tom Brady and the Patriots. Might the two quarterbacks continue to be rivals?

While there's been discussion about which teams might pursue Manning if he became available for some time, now that it's reality, reports are flying about which teams are serious about pursuing the soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback.

The big question for any team, of course, is Manning's health. He's undergone multiple neck surgeries, and it isn't truly known how much of his arm strength has returned. There's also risk involved - could one hit lead to devastating results for Manning and his new team?

Among Manning's expected suitors: the Dolphins and Jets.

Manning's offseason home is in South Florida, and his Super Bowl title came in Miami. The Dolphins have around $17 million in salary cap space currently, have some good offensive weapons already in place (Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Anthony Fasano) and a good offensive line.

Upping the Miami appeal for Manning? Receiver Reggie Wayne, set to become a free agent on Tuesday, would be open to signing with the Dolphins.

One other big factor: Miami desperately needs something - someone - to consistently put behinds in the seats at Sun Life Stadium. Owner Stephen Ross has made a couple of missteps in recent years, but if he's able to land Manning, he'll have a draw to get fans to the games and the hope that his team will be a real threat in the division.

As for the Jets, Newsday reported this morning that New York is prepared to make a "serious run" at Manning, and the Daily News was more succinct, with today's back page screaming "GET HIM!"

But the Jets have Mark Sanchez in place and aren't in a great position salary-cap wise, so they're likely a longer shot to land Manning, though playing with Gang Green would put Peyton in the same stadium as younger brother Eli.

Other teams reportedly interested in landing Manning are Arizona and Seattle.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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