Forget hoops, NFL has March Madness

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 24 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"It is a huge plus to have a Peyton Manning on your roster," Broncos boss John Elway said upon signing Manning to a five-year contract worth $96 million if fulfilled.

And a huge plus to have him in the league to deflect some attention from the bad vibes surrounding the Saints.

Ditto for Tebow, whose job disappeared in Denver when Manning joined the Broncos. Where else for him to land but with the Jets, who seem determined to win the back pages of the New York tabloids while their co-inhabitants at the Meadowlands, the Giants, win Super Bowls.

The Jets' swift action — well, swift until there was an eight-hour delay as the Jets discovered a clause in Tebow's contract that would have cost them $5 million before it was renegotiated — shifted the glare away from the Saints, as well.

In the middle of all this, the Cowboys had $10 million of salary cap space stripped and the Redskins lost a whopping $36 million, spread over this year and next. Yet both have found ways to spend enough on free agents to fill some holes.

What chaos could be ahead? Plenty.

— New Orleans star quarterback Drew Brees has yet to reach agreement on a new contract and, given the Saints' precarious situation, imagine how ugly things might get if he ignores the franchise tag the team plunked on him and stays away from offseason workouts.

— With a rookie wage scale limiting financial investments, more blockbuster draft trades could happen. As it is, the Redskins mortgaged much of their future to move up four spots to get RG III. Yet, after his sensational pro day at Baylor, there's thought Griffin has become a challenger to Stanford's Luck as the top overall pick, owned by Indianapolis.

— Still out there ready to grab attention, if not many passes, is Terrell Owens. So might be Chad Ochocinco if the Patriots, as expected, release him. And Randy Moss, who didn't even play in the NFL in 2011 and was no factor the previous year, landed in San Francisco.

— Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez. Just wait until the incumbent stumbles, even momentarily, and the Big Apple is rocked by screams from Tebow's loyal legions.

— New jersey designs by Nike resemble the Oregon Ducks' varied uniforms, causing a surge to — or away from — the merchandise shelves.

At least there are no labor battles to be waged for 4½ months by America's richest sports league and its players. Last year at this time, we were in the middle of the lockout. No one knew if the 2011 season would even happen.

"I think the NFL is in great shape," Manning said, "with some great owners, great coaches and great people in leadership."

Don't forget plenty of newsmakers.

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