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As 26-year fans of the Indianapolis Colts, it breaks our hearts to think about Peyton Manning suiting up in anything other than speed blue and white. Unfortunately, that appears to be the likely outcome of what’s become the greatest offseason drama in the history of the National Football League.

Manning has been the Colts’ quarterback dating all the way back to 1998 – well, with the exception of the 2011 season, which he missed after undergoing major surgery on his neck. Over that span he’s won a Super Bowl, four MVP awards and reached 4,000 completions and 50,000 yards faster than any quarterback in NFL history.

He also won our “Athlete of the Decade” award for the 2000s.

Unfortunately, even though Manning has been cleared to play again following his September 2011 cervical fusion procedure – it appears unlikely that the Colts will keep him. In fact it’s generally presumed that they will release him next month so that they can select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

Why would they do that?

Well, Indianapolis can’t afford both signal-callers … and while it’s unclear at this point whether Manning will be able to return to top form, most scouts regard Luck as the ultimate can’t miss prospect.

We’ll be honest … we had to think long and hard about this situation and the impact it will have on our longtime loyalties. After all, we were shedding man tears for the Colts before they drafted Manning (1996 AFC championship game, anyone?), but over the last 14 years his success has come to define our favorite franchise.

Ultimately, we decided that we’re Colts fans … for better or worse … although we fully expect our man-crush on Manning to continue unabated.

Assuming Manning is released by Indianapolis (wow, that’s painful to type) … where will he land?

The Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets are the two teams that are mentioned most by fans, although the Washington Redskins and the Arizona Cardinals would rank high on the list of possible suitors. Other teams with cash to spend that might make a run at Manning are the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It pains us to think in these terms, but given the direction in which the Manning saga appears to be moving it’s probably best if we … and all Colts fans … prepare for the likelihood that theĀ  greatest player in the history of the Colts’ franchise has played his last down with the team.

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