Peyton Manning Agrees to $96 Million Deal With Broncos
The big deal is done. Peyton Manning is a Denver Bronco.
A person familiar with negotiations says that Manning and the Broncos completed his five-year contract worth about $96 million on Tuesday morning.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Manning is to be introduced at a news conference at Broncos headquarters later.
The agreement ends a wild chase for perhaps the most valued free agent in the history of the NFL, a quarterback who has won an unprecedented four league MVP awards and took the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007.
It also represents a huge coup for Broncos executive and Hall of Fame QB John Elway, and is likely to end the Denver career of young quarterback Tim Tebow, who energized the Broncos in leading them to the playoffs last season despite some uneven play.
ESPN and the NFL Network first reported on the completion of the Manning deal.
Manning became a free agent when the Indianapolis Colts released him March 7 after the quarterback missed all of last season because of multiple neck surgeries.
The Colts released him rather than pay a $28 million contract bonus, ending a 14-year alliance between the team that drafted Manning No. 1 overall out of the University of Tennessee and the QB who brought Indianapolis from football irrelevance to the 2007 Super Bowl title and a second appearance in the NFL championship game three years later.
But with Manning coming off a series of operations to his neck, the Colts decided it was time to rebuild from top to bottom, and they are expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick in April's draft.
Manning-to-Denver creates a fascinating dynamic with Tebow, only months after he was the focus of the NFL regular season and perhaps the most talked-about athlete in sports, a polarizing figure both because of his style of play — as far as possible from a classic, dropback passer — and his outspoken religious beliefs.
After taking over a struggling team, Tebow led the Broncos to comeback victory after comeback victory, struggling for three quarters before starring in the fourth quarter and overtime. With an offense transformed into a spread option attack built on Tebow's running, and a strong defense that kept games close, the Broncos won the AFC West title.
Tebowmania reached its apex in the playoffs, when he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the very first play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next week, though, Tebow was smothered by the New England Patriots, who easily eliminated the Broncos 45-10.
One of two other teams considered finalists for in the race to sign Manning, the Tennessee Titans, released a statement Monday saying it is out of the picture.
"I want to thank the whole organization for their efforts in trying to sign Peyton and also to Peyton for the time he put into the process," Titans owner Bud Adams said. "Peyton called me this morning to inform me of his decision and obviously I am disappointed, because I thought we would be a perfect fit."
The San Francisco 49ers were the other team trying to land the star QB.
Two days after standing alongside Colts owner Jim Irsay during an emotional farewell news conference on March 7, Manning began his free agency tour in Denver. Manning landed on Tebow's turf with all the trappings of star treatment — flown to town on a chartered plane, then spending the day with Elway, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders.
From there, Manning crisscrossed the country in search of a new team, as various clubs courted a guy with more than 50,000 yards passing, nearly 400 touchdowns and 11 Pro Bowl selections. After Denver, next up was a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals, and he also spent time speaking with — or throwing for — the Titans, 49ers and Miami Dolphins, with TV cameras and even helicopters often on the trail.
Somehow, the 49ers managed to keep their audience with Manning a secret for days, until word emerged that the team was in the running for him, too.
In the end, though, Manning traded in his Colts horseshoe helmet for one adorned by a Bronco. The move allows him to stay in the AFC, a conference he knows well and one considered weaker than the NFC at the moment, and potentially re-establishes the tantalizing prospect of playing against his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli, in a Super Bowl. They already have three titles in the family.
As it happens, the next Super Bowl will be hosted by New Orleans, which also is the Mannings' hometown, because their father, Archie, used to play for the Saints. Think a Manning vs. Manning matchup for the championship in the Big Easy might garner attention?