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Peyton Manning: Which team can protect him best? A dark-horse favorite.

Peyton Manning has said he wants to choose his new team within a week. What factors will be most important to him? A strong offensive line could be a big plus.

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Another selling point for the Texans is Pro Bowl center Chris Myers, just the sort of intelligent center Manning would probably love to work with. Myers is a free agent this offseason, but Tanier thinks the Texans will work hard to resign him.

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As for the other teams in the hunt, the Seattle Seahawks O-line is a distant second, but better than many people think. They gave up a lot of sacks last year, but that may have had more to do with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson than it did with the line.

“The low sack totals are misleading,” Tanier warns. “Manning isn’t going to look at a sack total, he’s going to look at the film. And he’ll know better than I will that the Seahawks are better than they look.”

What about the Dolphins, perceived by many as a Manning front-runner?

“They’ll have to talk him into that one,” Tanier says. The Dolphins have a good left tackle in Jake Long, and a promising rookie center in Mike Pouncey. But the Dolphins line that looked promising on paper fell apart during the season, giving up the third highest number of sacks in the league, at 52. The squad also had the fourth highest allowed hit total in the NFL, so Manning as a Dolphin might get knocked around more than he’d like.

What’s more, teams with glaring issues on their offensive line will have a tough time resolving them this year. The free agent market for O-liners is fairly limited, full of what Tanier calls “veteran journeyman and second-tier question marks.”

The one exception might be Manning’s longtime center and good friend, Jeff Saturday.

Like Manning, Saturday has played his entire career in Indianapolis, and he is an unrestricted free agent this year. He has expressed interest in being signed as a package deal with Manning, and a club that can get a deal done with him would have a much better shot at Manning.  

The Saturday, factor too, might give teams with a woeful offensive line a better shot. The Redskins, for one, have the cap room to make such a deal. Plus, Tanier says “They love spending money and they have a problem at center.”

So which team, and which line, will lure Manning? The narrative is likely to change in the coming days, and the decision may come down to off-the-field factors. Still, Tanier has his prediction. “I said Seattle earlier. Bit now I’m leaning towards Houston, and the offensive line is a big part of that.”

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