AFC West Showdown Looms for Manning

With the Denver Broncos entertaining QB Peyton Manning on Friday, Chiefs Chairman of the Board Clark Hunt, indicated his interest in the former Colt. But is it too late for the Chiefs to prevent a division rival from dashing that desire?

For the last six weeks, we've been pounding the Peyton Manning question to Kansas City with vigor and passion.

With Manning in Denver on Friday to meet with the Chiefs old nemesis, John Elway, Kansas City Owner, Clark Hunt, went on record earlier in the day and indicated that he plans to speak with Manning after his visit in Denver.

"He's one of the greatest players in the history of the league," Hunt told CNBC reporter Darren Rovell. "He's also an incredible person. We feel really good about the team we have in Kansas City going into the 2012 season, but we'll look for any opportunity to improve and, of course, that includes Peyton Manning."

With this admission, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken a chapter out of the Broncos Public Relations book. A year ago when John Elway took over the operations of the organization, he told the media exactly what was happening in regards to their head coaching search, free agents they intended to bring into town and his every thought on his current meal ticket, Quarterback Tim Tebow.

The fact Elway is ready to punt Tebow to the curb, which isn't sitting well in Denver, tells me that he's willing to do whatever it takes to sign Manning.

For Hunt, who would not admit that negotiations have taken place nor what the status of those talks might be at the moment, did skirt around the question when asked.

Clark Hunt made a bold move telling the Chiefs fan base of his interest in signing QB Peyton Manning?
Getty Images

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to talk about discussions at this point, but he is somebody that we'll talk to," Hunt said.

However, Warpaint Illustrated has learned that representatives for Manning did speak to Chiefs officials Thursday afternoon.

But as that dialogue continues with the Chiefs and the other teams interested in Manning, one would think the Broncos might have the upper hand. Per another NFL Source, the Broncos might be willing to give Manning a $40 million guarantee just for signing on the dotted line. The Chiefs might not be so generous. There offer, per our NFL source, was four million under that number.

But is money the overriding factor to land Manning? Hunt doesn't necessarily believe that. "I don't know how important money will be to him, but I'm sure it will be part of the equation. But he's going to be looking for an environment that he's comfortable in," Hunt said.

Those are strong words but then again the Chiefs are in a desperate position to sell tickets and show their extraordinary and shrinking fan base, that they are serious about winning a Super Bowl. And thus they went public today in their pursuit of Manning to show their legion of fans that they'll take their shot at Manning.

Thus, if the Chiefs can convince Manning the best gig in the AFC West resides in Kansas City, then all the off season ills and the aftermath of the Todd Haley experiment, will be long forgotten. But if they lose Manning to the Broncos over money, the organization will take another hit.

But I'm not a big believer that's going to happen. We've already heard some NFL buzz that the Kansas City Chiefs, Manning in the fold or not, plan to significantly upgrade their personnel when Free Agency begins next week.

If those reports are true, the Chiefs without Manning, might still be the team to beat in the AFC West. However, if Manning chooses the Broncos, the Chiefs are going to have make all the right moves in March and April to compete with Denver and their new starting quarterback.

For Manning, he has to decide which AFC West team offers the best opportunity to win a Division Title which of course, could catapult Manning into the throws of another Super Bowl.

If it's Denver, then they have to significantly upgrade their receivers and parts of their offensive line. Then he has to deal with the Tim Tebow factor.

If the Broncos sign Manning, Tebow will have to be shipped off to another team. And that looms large for Denver. Tebow is worldly popular and some in Bronco country don't want Manning to replace Tebow-Mania.

Will John Elway defeat the Chiefs in their pursuit of Peyton Manning?
Getty Images

In Kansas City, the Chiefs need to simply add a couple of solid offensive lineman and the Chiefs with Manning at the helm will be darn unbeatable. They will be willing to turn the offense over the Manning and could ultimately demand the Chiefs bring in some of his former players, Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne and Center Jeff Saturday.

The Chiefs have the cap room to make that happen, the Broncos would have to dump some more salaries to get that done. Because whomever signs Manning will have to be charged with a 2012 cap hit of at least $20 million.

But for now that's a moot point, if the Chiefs lose Manning to the Broncos. In their AFC rivalry, Kansas City fans have already seen John Elway defeat them multiple times in big games and if he does so again, this time behind a desk, it'll be something that could really seal the fate of the Chiefs fortunes heading into the 2012 season.

So will that happen? Not if Clark Hunt has anything to say about the Manning sweepstakes. "I would think that he will be looking for the situation that fits him best," Hunt said.

Let's hope that he can convince him that the best fit for Manning is in Kansas City with the Chiefs.


WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Can Clark Hunt deliver Peyton Manning to Chiefs fans?


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