Titans' fate would have been different with Peyton Manning

No one will ever know for sure just how close Peyton Manning came to being a Titan.

The pursuit of the former University of Tennessee quarterback in March 2012 became a high-energy endeavor when owner Bud Adams ordered the front office and coaching staff into recruiting mode.

Ultimately, Manning chose the Broncos over the Titans and 49ers. He'll face the Titans for the first time since then on Sunday in Denver.

In the spirit of the holiday season, and "It's a Wonderful Life" in particular, here's a look at just how things might have changed in Tennessee had Manning picked the Titans:

Jake Locker wouldn't be on crutches

The biggest question about Locker over the past two seasons: Is he injury prone? His 2012 (shoulder) and 2013 (foot) seasons were cut short, after all.

Had Manning signed with the Titans, Locker would be an uninjured backup learning from a future Hall of Famer.

The big question then: Will the eighth overall pick of the 2011 draft get to play before his contract expires?

Ryan Fitzpatrick would be with the Bengals

Had the Titans signed Manning, Fitzpatrick would be backing up Andy Dalton with the Bengals instead of starting for the Titans against the Broncos.

Cincinnati was interested in Fitzpatrick, but he joined the Titans, who had cut Matt Hasselbeck.

Speaking of Hasselbeck, he probably wouldn't be with the Colts. The Titans would have released him or traded him. Coming off a 9-7 season in 2011, he likely would've gotten a chance to start somewhere. Maybe even in Denver.

Chris Johnson wouldn't be a Titan

The Titans would have matched, if not topped, the five-year, $96 million contract Manning signed with the Broncos. Adams wanted him that much.

While the Titans probably would've made it work with Manning and their star running back for 2012, there's no way they would've paid Johnson $10 million for 2013. Instead they would have opted against guaranteeing his contract, sending him to free agency.

Shonn Greene would be the featured back, and the Titans might've spent an early-round draft pick on Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy, who went to the Rams in the fifth round.

Munchak would be up for extension

Great players have a way of making coaches look a whole lot smarter. Manning has done that over the years, and his presence in Nashville would've kept critics off Munchak's back.

Munchak's deal expires in 2014, and having a head coach heading into the final year of his contract is not ideal. Additional years probably would have been discussed by now.

Instead, Munchak is on the hot seat, having gone 11-17 the past two seasons.

Reinfeldt wouldn't have been fired

As senior executive vice president and chief operating officer, Reinfeldt spoke with Adams on a regular basis. Adams told Reinfeldt on several occasions he wanted the Titans to pursue Manning. When the front office hesitated, the owner went public with his desires.

Adams believed if the Titans had gotten in the hunt sooner, they would've landed Manning. He blamed Reinfeldt, who was shown the door with a year left on his contract.

AFC South title would be in sight

The division is perhaps the weakest in the NFL, bogged down by the Jaguars (3-9) and Texans (2-10) and led by the inconsistent Colts (8-4).

With Manning, the Titans would've had a fighting chance last season despite an incredibly porous defense, and they would've finished a little better than 6-10.

This year, the Titans would be 9-3 (instead of 5-7) and on the verge of clinching the division.

Wes Welker would be a Titan

When the veteran receiver became a free agent after so many great seasons in New England, the Titans were interested. He opted for the Broncos, however, in large part because of Manning.

Welker's presence would've allowed the Titans to play Kendall Wright almost exclusively on the outside. It also might've signaled the end for Nate Washington or Kenny Britt because the Titans would have had numbers at the position.

Welker leads the Broncos with 68 catches for 717 yards and nine touchdowns.

Wimbley wouldn't be a Titan

When the Titans lost out on Manning, they needed to make a splash and make up for lost time. They'd missed out on defensive end Mario Williams (he signed with the Bills) and other top free agents.

So they signed Wimbley to a $35 million contract with $13.5 million guaranteed. It was a bad move. A linebacker in a 3-4 scheme before joining the Titans, he has been a poor fit at defensive end. In 28 games, he has only eight sacks.

Center situation would be different

The Titans planned on signing free-agent center Scott Wells in 2012. When they entered the Manning chase, however, Wells was put on hold. He opted for a four-year, $24 million contract with the Rams.

Had he signed with the Titans, they wouldn't have paid Eugene Amano's $3.182 million salary last year while he was on injured reserve after a training camp injury. They would've released Amano five months earlier.

Then they wouldn't have signed veteran Rob Turner this offseason, and likely wouldn't have drafted Brian Schwenke.

Injuries have slowed Wells the past two seasons.

Manning fever would be rampant

The Titans have sold out every game since 1999, but some weeks over the last two seasons there have been plenty of empty seats at LP Field.

With Manning as a Titan, the No. 18 jerseys (not the ones that say "Britt" on the back) would be everywhere in Nashville and throughout the state.

He would've generated excitement akin to that accompanying the Super Bowl run of the inaugural season. Filling the seats would not be a problem.


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