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What’s next for Eli Manning? Jacksonville fans already talking about acquiring him

If Manning doesn’t finish his career as a Giant, where could he land?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that the New York Giants have benched Eli Manning, we’re all still trying to process the new reality.

We all knew that Manning’s time as the Giants’ starting quarterback would have to end some time. However, it is a shock to have it happen on a Tuesday in November, when he is still the best quarterback in the building and far from the biggest problem with the team.

But that’s where we are: Geno Smith is the starting quarterback for the New York Football Giants.

But this development also begs the question, “Where do we go from here?”

It is certainly possible that Manning returns as the Giants’ starting quarterback to finish his career in New York, teaching a high draft pick how to be a professional in the league’s harshest media market.

But given how this season has gone down, with a team that had Super Bowl aspirations mismanaged into oblivion and Manning himself demoted so the coach responsible could see what Smith and (eventually, maybe) Davis Webb can do on the field, it isn’t inconceivable that Manning could decide that he wants to finish his career elsewhere.

In a dispassionate, cold-blooded, “Belichickian” kind of way, moving on from Manning might even be the right move from the Giants’ perspective as well.

If that is indeed the case, the Giants and Manning should work together to find a mutually acceptable landing spot. The Giants are still a franchise that prides itself on trying to “doing right” by its players, and letting Manning finish his career in the best possible situation for him is the least they could do. Likewise, trading him would allow the Giants to not only get some kind of consideration for him in return.

Prior to the 2017 trade deadline, our own Ed Valentine wrote that for the Giants to trade Manning, they should get a package in excess of the 2nd round pick that the San Francisco 49ers gave to the New England Patriots for Jimmy Garropolo. He wrote that the Giants should expect something on the order of the 2017 1st round pick and conditional 2018 pick (fourth round, in this case) that the Philadelphia Eagles got for Sam Bradford.

Manning is still a quarterback who is capable of playing at a championship-caliber level, and those are hard to find. However, his age and contract also need to be taken into consideration, so a “Bradford” package is fair.

If that is indeed how all this plays out, where could Manning land?

Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the most obvious landing spot. In fact, it’s something that our colleagues at Big Cat Country are already talking about.

After years of rebuilding, the Jaguars have constructed a roster that is capable of contending for a Super Bowl. With a dominant defense, a tough running game, and the receiving weapons to be explosive on offense, Jacksonville has everything needed but a quarterback. Despite the fact that Blake Bortles is a decade younger than Manning, Eli likely has the greater upside.

The Jaguars are also the home of Tom Coughlin, who (as we all should know) coached Eli for most of his career and the two have always had a tremendous relationship.

That trade might be the most likely to happen, but the trade package would probably be the lowest of the likely trade partners. The Jags are on their way to a play-off run, which would mean a first round pick in the 20s at best.

Denver Broncos

This is a path already well-worn by Eli’s brother.

The Broncos are in desperate need of an effective quarterback, with none of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiller, or Paxton Lynch looking like “the guy”. As well, John Elway has shown little hesitation to deal if it can improve his odds of winning now. He could also use his connection to Peyton to sell Eli on the idea of coming to Denver.

It wouldn’t be a bad situation for Eli. He would have a good running game and receiving weapons, as well as an aggressive defense.

If the season ended today, the Broncos would have the the fifth overall pick, which they might not be willing to deal for a short-term answer at quarterback. However, they decide they want another Manning, then a deal could be worked out.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are in a bind at quarterback.

Carson Palmer was already aging badly to start the season, but landed on the injured reserve with a broken arm. Making matters worse, Arizona doesn’t have a quarterback of the future.

Trading for Manning would give them the bridge they need to find one. It would, coincidentally, be the same path as followed by Manning’s predecessor in New York, Kurt Warner.

From Eli’s perspective, Arizona wouldn’t be a bad situation. The Cardinals have one of the best and most versatile running backs in the game in David Johnson, as well as some intriguing weapons in the passing game. Manning would also likely thrive in Bruce Arians’ offensive scheme.

If the season ended today, the Cardinals would have the twelfth overall pick, which is likely too low for them to find a long-term solution at quarterback, and certainly not one with the immediate upside of Eli Manning.

Final Thoughts

This is all speculative. We don’t even know what will happen on Sunday, let alone January.

This isn’t what Eli Manning deserves. He deserves to end his career the same way as Michael Strahan — as a New York Giant, in a shower of confetti, holding a Lombari Trophy.

But things rarely work out like that. Peyton Manning retired a Bronco, Brett Favre as a Minnesota Viking, and Joe Montana as a Kansas City Chief. So if that is how things must go, a mutually beneficial trade is best for all involved.