Free agent quarterback Peyton Manning informed teams Monday morning that he has decided to sign with the Denver Broncos provided that a contract can be worked out, a source with knowledge of the deliberations said.
It would take a last-minute breakdown in contract negotiations to prevent Manning from signing with the Broncos. But none is expected because the teams on Manning’s list of finalists understood that it would take a deal in the range of $90 million over five seasons to sign him, the person close to the situation said.
The San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans also were among the finalists attempting to lure Manning, the only four-time most valuable player in NFL history. He became the most sought-after free agent ever in the sport when the Indianapolis Colts released him a rew weeks ago.
ESPN first reported Manning’s decision.
The Broncos likely will attempt to trade quarterback Tim Tebow now that Manning has made his decision to join the Broncos. Several people in pro football said the Broncos had taken a few quiet steps recently to pave the way for a possible trade of Tebow in case they landed Manning.
Manning will attempt to revive his NFL career in Denver after missing all of last season following a series of neck surgeries. He joins a Broncos team that Tebow led to the playoffs last season. Manning also is joining forces with Broncos front office executive John Elway, the franchise’s former Hall of Fame quarterback and two-time Super Bowl winner.
Elway praised the way that Manning threw the ball after Broncos representatives met with Manning and watched him throw late last week at Duke University. Manning had visited Denver earlier in his free agent deliberations.
Manning was said to have narrowed his choice to the Broncos, Titans and 49ers after he was pursued by a group of teams that initially also included the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Washington Redskins. The Cardinals instead paid a roster bonus to Kevin Kolb to retain him as their quarterback. The Jets gave Mark Sancez a contract extension. The Redskins completed a trade with the St. Louis Rams for the second overall selection in April’s NFL draft and plan to take Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner.
The 49ers are left scrambling to try to re-sign Alex Smith, the quarterback who helped them to reach last season’s NFC title game. Smith is a free agent.
The Titans lost their bid to bring Manning back to the state where he played in college for the University of Tennessee. Titans owner Bud Adams said he was disappointed.
“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,” Adams said in a written statement released by the Titans.
“Now that we move forward, I want our fans to know that our expectations haven’t changed--winning a championship is still the goal. I like our quarterback situation moving forward and we will continue to build the team through free agency and the draft with that goal in mind.
“I also want to commend [current Titans quarterbacks] Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. They were thrown into a very difficult situation. Matt was very good for us last year; and at some point, we expect Jake to be our future franchise quarterback.
The Broncos are counting on Manning, who turns 36 this week, to regain his form. He threw for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns in his 13 healthy seasons with the Colts. Colts owner Jim Irsay declared his team to be in rebuilding mode when he released Manning earlier this month, a move that kept the club from having to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus.
The wildly popular Tebow became a cultural as well as a football phenomenon last season when he won seven of his first eight games after taking over as the starter at quarterback for a Broncos team off to a 1-4 season. The mania calmed a bit when Tebow and the Broncos lost their final three regular season games. But the attention soared again when the Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round AFC playoff game, only to lose at New England six days later in a conference semifinal.
Even when Tebow was winning, there were persistent questions about whether Elway and the Broncos regarded him as the franchise’s long-term solution at quarterback. Tebow’s leadership and running ability were unquestioned, but he struggled with his passing accuracy, finishing the regular season with a completion rate of 46.5 percent. The former first-round draft pick has been a 47.3-percent passer in his two NFL seasons in Denver.
Trade speculation about Tebow immediately focused on the Miami Dolphins, who were rebuffed in their efforts to secure Manning. The Dolphins also failed to sign free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, the former Green Bay Packers backup who agreed to a contract with the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend. Such a trade would send Tebow back to the state where he won a Heisman Trophy and two collegiate national championships at the University of Florida.
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