EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Fast forward to the end of the 2019 season and make a big assumption: That Eli Manning plays well for at least a few games in December, and the Giants win a game or two, too.
That's what it would take to give the soon-to-be-39-year-old a shot at an NFL quarterbacking job next season. But if that happens, where would he even find an open job?
There are only a few possibilities with so many franchises set with young quarterbacks for their future, and none of them seem very likely. Manning could go anywhere as a clipboard-holding backup, of course, but that's not something someone who spent 15 years as a starter is likely to do. If he continues his career, he's going to want to play -- or at the very least he'll want a chance to play.
And that leaves two types of scenarios: 1. He could go somewhere as a "bridge quarterback" with a team that drafts a rookie they don't want to play on Day 1 -- sort of like he was this season with the Giants. Or 2. He could join a good team with a shaky quarterback that thinks he could provide one last, miracle run, like when the Denver Broncos signed his brother, Peyton, after he was cut by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
The former is much more likely than the latter, but the truth is there aren't many places that fit either of those descriptions. And it won't help Manning's case that there are several younger, more attractive quarterbacks potentially on the market, like Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and maybe even Jameis Winston.
But just in case Manning is looking for employment in 2020, here's a look at a few places he might be able to find a home:
They are going to draft a quarterback, and probably in the first round, and they're going to want to have a veteran in place to shepherd him. The bad news for Manning, though, is that the Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick in that role and he's signed through 2020.
Presumably, they'll want to keep him in that role since he knows the coaches and the system.
Tannehill is thriving in Tennessee now that the Titans have moved on from Marcus Mariota. Both quarterbacks will be free agents, though, and it's not yet clear if the Titans want either one back or want to look to the draft.
If they look to the draft, Manning could be that perfect "bridge" to the future, especially since the Titans won't have a high pick and think they have just enough other pieces to stay in the playoff hunt.
It's assumed they're going to draft a quarterback in the first round, and could use a veteran to bring the rookie along. Now, they do have veteran Andy Dalton signed through 2020. But they could clear all of his $17.7 million in salary cap space off their 2020 books if they cut him and sign someone like Manning to a much cheaper deal.
Financially it makes sense, but how much playing time could Manning get if they take a quarterback No. 1 overall?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston is playing on his fifth-year option and there's no sign of a long-term contract for the turnover-prone quarterback. Could that be an indication that the Bucs are ready to move on? And if so, for whom?
Because they're trending towards a middle-of-the-round pick in the draft, it might not be a player ready to start immediately. Still, the Bucs have the NFL's fifth-ranked offense despite a quarterback who's been sacked 40 times. It might not be smart to turn things over to a 39-year-old who can't move.
Mitch Trubisky has one more fully guaranteed year left on his rookie contract, so he's not going anywhere no matter how bad he plays this season. But if the Bears are losing patience with Trubisky, this is a place where Manning could theoretically go to compete for a job, if that was something he wanted to do.