Peyton Manning and John Elway last Friday. (AP)
Peyton Manning has made his decision ... and he's taking his talents to the Mile High City. Chris Mortenson of ESPN reported that Manning had advised agent Tom Condon to wrap up negotiations on what is believed to be a five-year, $95 million offer. The belief is, according to multiple reports, that the Broncos will now try to trade quarterback Tim Tebow.
Manning called Broncos VP of Operations John Elway on Monday morning to inform him of the decision. Manning also called the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans, the other two teams in the running for Manning's services, to inform them.
Manning threw for Elway and a large group of Broncos and executives and coaches on Friday in North Carolina, and Elway was impressed.
"We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C.," Elway tweeted on Friday. "He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there. Watching him throw today was the next step in this important process for our team and Peyton. It was a productive visit and went well."
Manning and Elway first discussed the parameters of a contract during a March 9 meeting in Denver, and firmed things up at last Friday's throwing session. Denver was Manning's first destination after he was released by the Colts on March 7, and the Broncos were persistent through the process when they had to be. Manning has instructed Condon to avoid any future negotiations with any other teams to avoid the perception that he's trying to get any additional financial leverage.
Manning, who is still getting back to full strength after the nerve impingements caused by multiple neck surgeries, passed the Broncos' physical last Friday, and apparently passed the physicals administered by the two other teams.
In his first year as an NFL starter, Tebow led several impressive comebacks and made the deciding throw in the team's playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Denver's flexibility with Tebow -- specifically offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's ability to adapt Denver's offense to Tebow's familiarity with option football -- had to appeal to Manning. Having run Indianapolis' offense for over a decade and acted as the team's ad hoc offensive coordinator for most of that time, Manning was certainly looking for the best opportunity not only to win, but to win his way.
Asked at the 2012 scouting combine about the future of the Broncos' quarterback philosophy, Elway said that the thought process would remain fluid. "I think we're going through that process now. We have to kind of let it happen. I don't know that we're looking for one like Tim or your ordinary drop-back [passer], or somewhere in between. I think until we find out the interest out there, it's going to be hard to fill those spots. I think when I look at Tim and I look at our offense, we can do it with either one. Whether it be a guy like Tim, or if it's more of a drop-back-type guy, we feel like either one is going to be able to fit."
Of course, the Broncos aren't done building their team in free agency. No matter what they give Manning, there's still money in the salary cap kitty to spend. And as Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said last Friday, there are some interesting options out there.
"If I get Peyton Manning and it's a healthy Peyton Manning, I'm thinking Super Bowl," Mayock said. "From my perspective, the first thing I would do is I would try to make Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers a very wealthy young man. He's a restricted free agent so I would have to give up my first-round pick, but my first-round pick is only No. 25. I would be happy to give up No. 25 and then I would get after Mike Wallace, try to put together a deal with him.
"After that, remember that [tight end] Dallas Clark — Peyton's old teammate — is out there as a free agent; it wouldn't cost me anything. I would be trying to augment my offensive firepower because Peyton is used to dealing with an average defense; Denver's defense is fine. I'd be really just getting everybody I could get on the offensive side of the ball and say, 'OK, Peyton, it's up to you to win a Super Bowl. Let's go.'"
The Broncos aren't there just yet, but they have scored a major victory on paper. Now, it's time to fill it all in.
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- Peyton Manning
- John Elway