Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quarterback Peyton Manning to sign with Broncos

The Denver Broncos are expected to announce the signing of free agent quarterback Peyton Manning on Tuesday, according to sources close to the team. Though Manning has chosen the Broncos as the team he will play for in 2012, his contract was still being finalized as of Monday evening.

Manning called Denver's Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and John Fox on Monday morning to inform them that he would be playing for the team this season, as was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Broncos are aiming to hold a press conference on Tuesday afternoon announcing the signing of Manning.

Manning, a fourteen-year veteran who was released by the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, is a four-time League MVP and one-time Super Bowl MVP. With 54,828 career passing yards and 399 career touchdowns, Manning is bringing experience to Denver that his new teammates are excited about.

"Aw man, it's going to be exciting just what he brings to a team, he brings his leadership, just the way he approaches the game," said linebacker Joe Mays, who re-signed with Denver on Sunday. "He has the 'it' factor when it comes to winning games. He had it over his time with the Colts and now he's got a chance to do it here. We're all excited to have him on the team."

Ironically, Manning's rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts was in 1998, the same year that Elway, who was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1983, led the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory in his final season. Now in charge of Denver's front office, Elway is trying to get Denver back to the Super Bowl by bringing in Manning, who passed for nearly 1,000 more yards than Elway in their respective first and final seasons.

With Manning prepared to sign with the team, the Broncos are expected to trade quarterback Tim Tebow, who showed flashes of heroism last season before an embarrassing Divisional playoff loss to the New England Patriots. After the game, Broncos' Owner Pat Bowlen was quoted as saying he wanted Championships, not Division Titles, which ultimately led to the team moving on from Tebow — quite possibly too soon.

The Broncos have one goal in mind and that is to win a Super Bowl. Denver's front office — consisting of Elway, Fox and General Manager Brian Xanders — believe that bringing in Manning gives them the best chance to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. With Manning about to turn 36 and coming off multiple neck surgeries however, the signing is a high risk, high reward scenario.

As of late Monday evening, the Broncos were working with Manning's agent, Tom Condon, on a five-year contract — which would protect the Broncos if Manning's neck injuries inhibit his performance — which could be worth up to $100 million, with about half of that coming in guaranteed money.

With Manning now the team's starting quarterback moving forward, the Broncos will become an attractive team to free agents who are still un-signed. Denver is expected to pursue several of Manning's former teammates including tight end Dallas Clark, center Jeff Saturday and wide receiver Brandon Stokley. As of Monday, Saturday is the only player who has a visit scheduled with the Broncos.

After officially signing Manning, the next order of business in Denver will be to assign him a jersey number. Manning wore No. 18 during his fourteen years with the Colts but that number is retired in Denver in honor of the team's first quarterback in franchise history, Frank Tripucka. Manning's college number, 16, is available for the veteran quarterback.

If Peyton wants to wear No. 18 however, Tripucka said "it would be an honor" for the team to un-retire the number for Manning.

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