The big deal is done. Peyton Manning is a Denver Bronco. Before the announcement, a person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Manning and the Broncos completed his five-year contract worth about $96 million on Tuesday morning.
"I believe that he's got a lot of great football left in him," Broncos executive and Hall of Fame QB John Elway said at a press conference Tuesday.
"This truly is a special football environment," Manning told reporters,
"and I'm glad to be a part of it."
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 Elway. Manning called Elway on Monday and told him that he had chosen Denver over the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, his other final picks. The Broncos and Manning's agent then hashed out the contract details.
"I congratulate Peyton as he heads to a tremendous organization in the Denver Broncos. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his Hall of Fame career," Colts owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday.
With the 35-year-old Manning recovering from a string of neck surgeries, Irsay released him two weeks ago rather than pay a $28 million bonus. But plenty of teams still believed Manning can still be the kind of leader who guided Indy to 12 wins a season from 2001-10. Although no starting QB has ever earned a Super Bowl ring for two different teams, every day at the Broncos' headquarters, Manning will at least see the two Lombardi Trophies in the lobby that Elway won — when he was 37 and 38.
With Manning joining the Broncos, oddsmakers in Las Vegas immediately made Denver one of the top choices to win the Super Bowl next season, which will be played in Manning's hometown of New Orleans. While Manning has undeniably stellar statistics — he has thrown for more than 50,000 yards passing, nearly 400 touchdowns and has 11 Pro Bowl selections to his credit — the first question for the Broncos will be whether he can perform at the same level.
The neck surgeries forced him to miss all of the 2011, even as he was the highest-paid QB in the game, and several teams that courted him wanted to see him throw. Denver was among them. Last week, Manning worked out for Elway, coach John Fox and others in North Carolina at Duke's athletic facilities. Elway said afterward that Manning "looked comfortable" throwing the ball.