Peyton Manning picks Broncos, talking contract
He first made his NFL mark with The Drive.
As a champion, his signature play was The Helicopter.
And now as an up-and-coming football executive, John Elway is close to delivering The Signing.
Peyton Manning called Elway and John Fox this morning and told them the Broncos are his choice and he wants to start exclusive negotiations with the team, according to an NFL source. Inside the Broncos' headquarters, unbridled joy erupted. Manning is about to become a Bronco. A Broncos quarterback worthy of the standard Elway himself set during his 16-year playing career.
The contract will likely be in the 5-year, $90 million range.
"Something like this is a historic move," said Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil. "I don't want to put too much pressure on one guy, but what he's accomplished, if he's healthy, I think he can bring us to one of the dominant organizations."
Arguably the most prized free-agent in NFL history, Manning picked the Broncos over the Tennessee Titans and the San Francisco 49ers, his other finalists.
"I was hoping we would win out," Titans owner Bud Adams told The Tennessean. I thought we'd be ahead of Denver. I thought he'd want to stay in Tennessee."
Dallas Clark, Manning's tight end in Indianapolis, becomes a likely free agent target for the Broncos.
Manning ranks third all-time among NFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes, completions and passing yardage even though he missed all of last season because of a neck injury that has required four surgeries.
He is an 11-time Pro Bowler, two-time AFC champion and one-time Super Bowl champion who led Indianapolis to an average record of 12-4 during the 10-year playing period from 2001-10.
"He's a true leader who's done it," Dumervil said. "Shoot, sky's the limit."
Yet, Manning was released two weeks ago by the Colts for three reasons: A $28 million bonus payment that had become due, concerns about his neck at a time when he is about to turn 36, and the opportunity to use the No. 1 draft pick on sensational quarterback prospect Andrew Luck.
Manning visited the Broncos at their Dove Valley headquarters as his first stop in checking out a new team. By this past weekend, he had narrowed his choices to Denver, San Francisco and Tennessee after eliminating Miami and Arizona.
Factors in Manning's decision to select the Broncos were Elway, who was hired to head the team's front office14 months ago, coach John Fox, Colorado's quality of life for his wife Ashley and infant twins (they turn 1 on March 31), and his friendships with Brandon Stokley and Rockies star Todd Helton.
Once Manning officially signs with the Broncos, attention will turn to the fate of incumbent quarterback Tim Tebow. Arguably one of the biggest stories in sports history during a magical 2011 season, Tebow led what had been a horrific Broncos team to six consecutive victories and their first playoff appearance in six years. He then helped beat the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game with an 80-yard touchdown
Yet, Tebow also ranked 34th in pass percentage in a league in which there are only 32 starting quarterbacks. Elway has long stated that a team cannot win a Super Bowl without having a vaunted passing attack. The last nine Super Bowls have been won by arguably the league's six best quarterbacks: Tom Brady (twice), Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Manning, his younger brother Eli Manning (twice), Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
It's possible the Broncos could keep Tebow and use him in goal-line packages. Or the Broncos could conclude there's not a big enough tent to handle the circus of both Tebow and Manning. In that case, the Broncos would attempt to trade Tebow before the late-April draft.
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