EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Eli Manning has expressed no interest in waiving his no-trade clause. The Giants have shown no indication they'd be willing to trade him anyway. And his value around the league right now isn't exactly high.
But with the injury to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Thursday night, could all that change?
That's what a few people around the NFL wondered in the immediate aftermath of the knee injury suffered by Mahomes. The preliminary reports indicated the NFL's reigning MVP might only miss about three games, so maybe the Chiefs will be comfortable going forward with journeyman quarterback Matt Moore. But they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and could be interested in an upgrade, especially if there's a chance Mahomes could be out longer.
So even a 38-year-old now-backup quarterback like Manning could be attractive, given his experience, his two championships and two Super Bowl MVPs.
"They'd have to consider it," one NFL source said shortly after Mahomes got hurt. "Maybe it's unlikely, but what are their options? Even on the downside of his career Eli has to be near the top of that list."
There are several obstacles that would have to be cleared first before a deal like that could happen. The biggest is Manning's no-trade clause, which he may not want to waive. When he was benched on Sept. 17, people close to Manning said he likely wouldn't since he has a young family rooted in New Jersey that he didn't want to move. For what it's worth, Manning wouldn't completely rule out waiving it, but he also said he expected to stay with the Giants for the rest of the year.
It's unclear, though, if Manning would change his mind for what would essentially be a two-month-long business trip, plus a chance to cement his legacy with one last Super Bowl run.
Even if he was willing, though, it's also not clear if the Chiefs would go the Manning route. "He's not really a fit," said one AFC scout. "Obviously he can't move like Mahomes, and that's everything in Andy Reid's offense." The scout also noted concern about Manning's play this season, saying "He doesn't make the tight throws or quick decisions like he used to make. He's just not the same."
Another scout suggested a better fit for the Chiefs would be Marcus Mariota, who just lost his job to Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. "More mobile, less mistake-prone," the scout said. "And he's going to be motivated by a chance to revive his career."
Given his age (25), Mariota could be more expensive for the Chiefs, though it's hard to imagine either quarterback brings back much more than a third-day draft pick (Rounds 4-7). Financially, the Chiefs would be responsible for whatever's left of Mariota's $20.9 million salary. Manning's salary is only $11.5 million, so the cost for him would be less, but with $23.2 million in cap room (according to NFL Players Association records) the Chiefs could afford either one.
Whether the Giants would be willing to trade Manning is also an unknown because they do believe he still has value to them. They love the idea of keeping him around to help shepherd his replacement, Daniel Jones, through his rookie struggles. They are also just one game out of first place in the NFC East, and see Manning as a great insurance policy in case Jones falters or gets hurt and they still have a shot to make a playoff run.
But what if Manning decides he wants a trade? "They desperately want to do right by him," said someone familiar with the Giants' quarterback plans. "They could have dumped him in the offseason or at any point since. But they want to show him respect and they hope he retires a Giant.
"If he asks to be traded, though, it's really hard to imagine they'd say no."
For now, though, the source added "Nobody thinks he wants to leave the Giants." And no one is sure the Chiefs would want Manning even if he did. One thing is certain, though: If the Giants ever were going to be able to send Manning somewhere else for one last run at the playoffs, this could end up being their best shot.