Some quick thoughts on the NFL’s biggest transaction in years while imagining how strange it will be the first time we watch Peyton Manning going through his histrionics before taking a snap in a uniform other than the Colts’ ...
1. The 2012 NFL season might be sixth months from its opening kickoff, but I say give John Elway the Executive of the Year award now. Landing Manning -- even with the concerns about his health and the huge financial commitment -- is a coup. But that’s not the most impressive part. By signing Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, he has managed to find the only way he could displace and even trade the wildly popular Tim Tebow without enduring significant backlash. I’ve never bought that Elway, who knows more about what it takes to be a high-end NFL quarterback than just about anyone else on the planet, believed Tebow could survive and thrive as a starter. Now, by signing Manning, he has his out, and it’s a greater escape than anything he ever did to avoid a pass rush.
2. With Manning throwing to them, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should prove to be legitimate high-quality NFL receivers. I was very impressed with Thomas during the playoff game at Foxborough -- he kept running precise routes even as Tebow would seemingly bounce every other pass in his direction. Decker, I’m not sure about -- he may have been the beneficiary of Tebow’s inability to throw downfield more than anything else. But Manning made the likes of Blair White look good (and made mediocre Pierre Garcon a rich man), so Decker too should thrive.
3. Would you want the Patriots to trade for Tim Tebow, which was apparently suggested as a possibility by ESPN’s John Clayton this weekend? Me, I’ll put my interest at 46.2 percent, just out of curiosity regarding how Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels might use him. (From what I gather, the quarterback spot in New England is taken.) Of course, 46.2 percent was also Tebow’s miserable completion percentage in 2011, which is why ultimately I’d much prefer him playing quarterback for another team in the AFC East than to see whether the Patriots could turn him into -- best-case scenario here -- the next Andy Johnson.
4. Wonder what number Manning will wear in Denver. His familiar No. 18 is retired in honor of Frank Tripucka, one of the franchise’s first stars during their AFL infancy. Maybe he wears No. 8 in honor of his dad, Archie, or maybe he wears No. 1 to denote the number of Super Bowls he’s won.
5. Thought the Niners, with that bloodthirsty defense and the addition of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, were the best option for Manning if the No. 1 goal is to have as many Super Bowl victories as his kid brother. Would not be surprised if there is something to the notion that he didn’t want to go to the NFC in part because Eli plays in the conference.
6. Provided Manning is healthy, I’d say Denver enters the season right there with the Ravens as the third-best team in the AFC, trailing the Patriots and Steelers. And the Broncos should run away with the AFC West, which finished with three 8-8 teams (Denver, San Diego, and Oakland) last season, as well as the 7-9 Chiefs.
7. NBC lost the battle with CBS to flex the late-season Patriots-Broncos matchup onto their schedule. You can pretty much guarantee that they won’t face a similar dilemma this season when Denver comes to New England (the date is not yet determined) in a sure-fire prime-time matchup, though, the game would obviously also hold significant appeal to ESPN and “Monday Night Football.’’
8. Lucrative week for agent Tom Condon, who got a reported $95 million for Manning, with another client, Brandon Lloyd, ending up with the Patriots on a three-year, $12 million deal. You’d have thought Lloyd might get more -- maybe Washington would have thrown some more millions his way had he not already played there -- but New England was where he always wanted to be. Kudos to Lloyd for prioritizing the situation over money, and kudos to Condon, who has had a non-existent relationship with the Patriots since a contentious negotiation with Ben Watson in 2005, for not letting past hard feelings get in the way of his client’s wishes.
9. All of the praise for Denver’s deal comes with one obvious caveat: We’re sure Manning is, you know, healthy enough to play, right?
This column first appeared in Chad Finn’s Touching All the Bases blog on Boston.com.