NFL

Trading For 35-Year-Old Peyton Manning? Let's Ask Former Chiefs' GM Carl Peterson, Who Traded for 36-Year-Old Joe Montana

We’ve been monitoring the Andrew Luck sweepstakes for just about a year now, and increasingly, it looks like the Stanford QB will end up in Miami or Indianapolis.

The Colts appear to have the slight edge because the Dolphins are at least competing and lost their last two games in overtime and the 4th quarter; since a loss to Cincinnati three weeks ago, Indianapolis looks uninterested.

When the conversation turns to Luck and the Colts, speculation centers around two things: 1) Andrew Luck would be an understudy to Peyton Manning for a year or two, then take the baton and carry the franchise for the next 12-15 years, kind of the way Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre in Green Bay and 2) The Colts might consider trading the best player in franchise history and giving the keys to Luck.

Forget about teams giving up No. 1 picks to try and get Andrew Luck … what about teams trading for Peyton Manning?

What might a 4-time NFL MVP be worth? Recently, I spoke with Carl Peterson, former GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. We talked about Andrew Luck. And trades. And the draft. Peterson knows a bit about trading for aging QBs around draft time: In 1993, he shook up the Chiefs’ franchise by trading for 36-year old Joe Montana, who at the time was a bigger deal than Manning is now (Montana was a 3-time Super Bowl MVP). Manning turns 36 in March, less than a month before the 2012 draft.

“I never like to give up 1st round draft choices,” Peterson told me. “I would only give them up for an experienced, very talented, proven quarterback. And I did that in 1993 when I traded for a guy named Joe Montana,” he said with a chuckle. “I had no problem doing that. He took us to an AFC title game the next year.”

In 1992, the Chiefs lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Bills, and then in the first round in 1993 to the Chargers. It was evident after getting blanked by San Diego that 34-year-old Dave Kreig’s best years were behind him, which led to the trade for Montana. San Francisco had Steve Young ready to take over the 49ers’ offense, and despite Montana’s popularity, the 49ers dealt him, a safety and a third round pick in 1994 for KC’s 1993 first-rounder (18th overall).

Montana led the Chiefs to the AFC title game, but suffered a concussion and was knocked out in the third quarter and the Bills cruised to victory, 30-13. (Shocking stat: The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game – 0-6 – since the two Montana led them to in 1993).

While Peterson, like everyone else, is enamored with Andrew Luck – “I know his dad pretty well and I salute Andrew for staying in school to get his degree” – he’s still a little skittish and old school when it comes to all the hype. “I have to smile when they say [Luck is a] franchise QB. With all due respect to Mel Kiper, he wouldn’t know that. He’s never coached, He’s never made those tough decisions. All the indications are there [with Luck], but there have been a couple of big busts, too. Like the Raiders giving JaMarcus Russell $60 million.”

Obviously the new CBA changes things, since No. 1 picks are now getting a paltry $22 million over 4 years. But the proven vs. potential discussion is bound to surface if the Colts finish with the worst record in football.

Peterson worries about Luck trying to live up to the considerable hype, and possibly being surrounded by inferior talent, wherever he lands. “Teams that get talented, young QBs don’t have the supporting cast, and he’s in living hell for three years,” he said. “If he survives that and maintains his confidence, he can be successful.” Sam Bradford is in St. Louis, but it might as well be hell. Luck would have to deal with a crumbling dynasty – the offensive line, defense and receivers are mostly on the wrong side of 30 – but in Miami he’d have Brandon Marshall and a decent RB tandem of Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush.

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Football is a business, so sure, the Colts could conceivably trade Peyton Manning. The market for Manning might include teams like Washington, Cleveland, Seattle, and maybe San Francisco.  But since the Montana deal in 1993, trading for a franchise QB has gotten very expensive. Guys like Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer – yes, I typed Carson Palmer with a straight face – have commandeered much more than what the Chiefs got Montana for.

Cutler and a 5th round pick went to Chicago in 2009 for Kyle Orton, 2 first-rounders and a third rounder. Last month, the Raiders gave up a 1st round pick and another pick (could be a 1st, depending on production) for Palmer. Regardless of what you think about quarterback wins as a stat, it should be noted that Cutler and Palmer had a combined 0 playoff victories prior to their trades. (Cutler got the Bears to the NFC title game last year; the Broncos are sputtering.) Manning has guided the Colts to the playoffs for nine straight seasons.

Carl Peterson believes even successful, non-franchise QBs like Trent Green can be better than a 1st round draft pick. Green was a Peterson special in 2001 – he gave up a 1st-round pick for Green and a 5th round pick. After a strong early/mid-90s, the Chiefs missed the playoffs in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and Peterson pulled the trigger on the trade for Green. Thanks to the emergence of Green and Priest Holmes, the Chiefs went from 6-10 to 8-8 to 13-3. The Rams, meanwhile, spent that No. 12 pick on someone named Damione Lewis. A defensive end from Miami, Lewis had 22.5 sacks in an underwhelming career.

“You have to find someone who would make that trade, and finding a willing partner isn’t always easy,” Peterson said about the Montana and Green trades.

Somehow, I don’t think the Colts would have any problems finding a taker on Peyton Manning if they decide to trade him.

Let’s say you’re the Redskins or Browns or Seahawks drafting in the Top 12. You need a QB, but maybe have some reservations about Matt Barkley or Landry Jones being the face of the franchise for a decade. Do you consider trading that No. 1 pick and more for Peyton Manning? (The Redskins tried something similar recently with Donovan McNabb, but that failed spectacularly.) Manning will sell tickets, hope and given his history (and how terrible the Colts are without him), could probably get any of those teams to the playoffs.

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