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Manning headed for starting lineup?

For the residents of San Diego, the city that boasts that it possesses the best climate in the country, the good news is that they won't be subjected to the long, hot summer that would have ensued had the Chargers retained Eli Manning.

Not that negotiations with agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents Philip Rivers, figure to be a day at the beach either, since he will seek the lucrative rookie-pool slot allocated to the Chargers for having exercised the first overall choice in the draft.

But given the degree of animus that had bubbled up this week between the Chargers and the Manning camp, in particular agent Tom Condon, apparently anything seems better to San Diego executives. As for Manning, who simply didn't want to enter the league with an organization whose vision he considered akin to that of Mr. Magoo, things certainly couldn't get any better than the way they turned out.

"I'm just thankful that everything worked out the way it did," acknowledged Manning, the final limb on the NFL's most prolific quarterbacking family tree. "I mean, never did we tell anyone that we [specifically] wanted to be traded to the New York Giants, but this is a terrific situation."

Indeed, whatever financial sacrifice Manning will absorb by having been traded to the Giants can easily be made up by the endorsement possibilities now available to him in New York, where his surname could be magic on Madison Avenue. Less than an hour after he was vilified by the passionate New Yorkers in the gallery at the draft, Manning was lustily cheered by the same fans.

Another prime example of the fickle nature of the Big Apple fans? You bet. Before he had had a chance to throw a touchdown pass or an interception, Manning was suddenly transformed from hated to hero. The roasted and toasted Manning Family immediately became the toast of New York.

One member of the Madison Square Garden crowd quickly displayed a hand-lettered placard that read: "Eli Storms Pennington's Neighborhood." Since the first letter of each word spelled out "ESPN," that clever fan got on camera.

The hastily-scribbled sign was a reference, of course, to Chad Pennington, the starting quarterback for New York's other franchise, the Jets.

One of the Jets' four first-round choices in the 2000 draft, Pennington was the only first-round quarterback chosen since the 1970 merger who did not start a single game during his first two seasons in the league. Why is that pertinent here? Because no one should expect Eli Manning to endure such an apprenticeship.

Condon and Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi have a solid relationship and it certainly behooves the team to not have a difficult negotiation. That's not to suggest the Giants will throw open the bank vault for Manning, because there are limitations as to what they can do, and contracts bargained this year include only six years for teams to prorate signing bonuses.

But the educated guess is that negotiations will be far less bilious than those Condon would have experienced had San Diego kept Manning. And it's a good bet that the Giants will attempt to accelerate Manning's learning curve, to get him on the field early, perhaps even to start him as a rookie.

There were pre-draft rumblings that, if the Giants landed Manning, they would either trade or release incumbent starter Kerry Collins, the nine-year veteran who is entering the final year of his contract and who might not be inclined to serve as a mentor this season. As of Saturday afternoon, a quick survey of several general managers indicated that the Giants had not yet begun to offer Collins around the league.

By either trading or cutting Collins, the Giants would recoup $7 million on the '04 salary cap. There have been no discussions about an extension.

Typically diplomatic, Manning wasn't about to publicly proclaim that he might move right into the starter's job as brother Peyton Manning did in 1998. Then again, he was too happy celebrating his escape from a San Diego team he clearly feels is still years removed from respectability to have even considered the short-term future.

"All I know is that, with the way this week went, things could have turned out a whole lot worse," Manning said. "Everything turned out great."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.