Peyton Manning joining the Denver Broncos

3:10 PM, Mar 19, 2012   |    comments
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Peyton Manning attends a press conference announcing Manning's release from the Colts at Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on March 7, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Joey Foley/Getty Images)

DENVER (USA Today) -- Peyton Manning will trade the horseshoe for the horse.

The four-time MVP has told his agent, Tom Condon, to finalize contract negotiations but is headed to the Mile High City, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who broke the news on SportsCenter.

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NFL Network is also reporting the agreement.

"It's crazy, it feels so surreal. ... It's such a historic move by the organization," said Denver DE Elvis Dumervil on ESPN.

"I'm so excited, man, so excited."

Manning apparently called the 49ers and Titans, the other teams vying for his services, on Monday morning to inform them of the decision.

"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.

"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. 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."

It's been widely assumed Manning, who turns 36 Saturday, will sign a deal similar (if not exceeding) the five-year, $90 million package he inked with the Colts (who released him March 7) last July. He and Patriots QB Tom Brady topped the NFL with pacts that averaged $18 million annually.

All three of Manning's suitors had contractual frameworks in place last week.

He worked out for Denver brass at Duke University on Friday, following a session for the 49ers earlier in the week and one for the Titans on Saturday. Broncos VP of football operations John Elway, HC John Fox and Co. apparently saw enough to satisfy them that the nerve damage in Manning's throwing arm was sufficiently recovered.

Elway tweeted Friday:

"We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C. 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 underwent three, possibly four, neck operations over a 19-month span, culminating with the procedure on the dawn of the 2011 season that ultimately forced him to the sideline for the entire campaign.

After the anterior fusion procedure to Manning's neck healed, he was cleared for practice late in the year, running some drills for the Colts in December. Doctors have indicated his neck should not be an issue; the unknown was how long it would take for the nerves in his triceps and his arm strength to revert to form.

ESPN's Adam Schefter further reports that Denver may bring in C Jeff Saturday, Manning's longtime batterymate in Indianapolis, and will look to trade QB Tim Tebow.

Why is Manning a good fit for the Broncos?

  • They are in the AFC, relieving Manning of more frequent matchups against the Giants and his brother Eli; Denver plays NFC South teams in 2012 but does face NFC East clubs in 2013.
  • He'll be working for an organization that has great tradition, much of it forged by Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback who led the team to five Super Bowls and two titles and now likely becomes a trusted sounding board for Manning.
  • The AFC West seems to be a winnable division; remember, Denver backed into the postseason at 8-8 in 2011.
  • They have a solid backfield that includes RBs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.
  • The top wideouts, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, are promising, though young. Expect a more experienced body (Dallas Clark, Brandon Stokley?) to be added. "We're very hungry, we want to be great," Decker said on ESPN.
  • The offensive line is very good, starting with tackles Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin. Their ability to successfully adapt from Kyle Orton's dropback style to Tebow's running game midway through last season was commendable.
  • Implementing Tebow's stengths is also a tribute to OC Mike McCoy and Fox, who's known as a players' coach. Their adaptability should work well for Manning, who's known as a micromanager of the offense in practice.
  • The defense has some nice pieces, most notably pass rushing OLB Von Miller and Dumervil. Expect more bodies to be added once Manning is officially in the fold.
  • The Broncos actually retired jersey No. 18, Manning's number during his 14-year stay in Indianapolis, in honor of Frank Tripucka, Denver's quarterback in the early AFL days back in the 1960s.

Manning wore No. 16 at the University of Tennessee, however Tripucka is fine if 18 comes out of mothballs now.

"It's perfectly OK for him to go ahead and use it," he recently told The Denver Post. " I would be honored to have him wear it."

But not everyone likes the Manning-to-Mile-High move.

Deion Sanders, a 49er once upon a time, tweeted:

Manning to Broncos!! Bad move just my opinion. Outside no dome very cold winters inexperienced receivers. I would have chose 49ers. Oh I did ... Think! Do u go to the Team that went 2 the NFC championship with great defense ,running game n Moss or Denver? ... PLEASE call da best that EVER did it n ask how he thinks this will play out because I've seen this b4! JOE MONTANA. Prime has spoken. TRUTH

It's also bound to be crushing news to Tebow, who's been mum during the Broncos' pursuit of Manning.

One of Denver's two first-round choices in 2010 (along with Thomas), Tebow took over in Week 7 last season and went 7-4 down the stretch, salvaging a 1-4 start for a team that he ultimately led to the divisional round of the playoffs after his unforgettable 80-yard TD to Thomas on the first play of OT beat the Steelers at home in the wild-card round.

Adams won't have a similar issued in Nashville and was complimentary of his current quarterbacks.

"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," he said.

"I also want to commend 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."

No word out of San Francisco, though the 49ers have yet to publicly acknowledge their interest in Manning. Today's turn of events almost surely means the team will turn back to QB Alex Smith, who visited the Dolphins on Sunday.

(KUSA Denver)

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