After nearly two weeks of deliberation, 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning has made his choice and he will play for the Denver Broncos in 2012. Although the final dollar figures have yet to be worked out, Manning informed Broncos czar John Elway that he would like to play for the team, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.
Manning will join a team that finished 8-8 and won the AFC West last season without much of a passing game. Denver finished 31st in the league in passing with Tim Tebow starting 10 games but managed to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in their divisional round playoff game before getting blasted by New England, 45-10 to finish the 2011 season.
The former Colts legend may have some familiar faces in the locker room as center Jeff Saturday and tight end Dallas Clark are both free agents and could join the Broncos. To have a dynamic tight end such as Clark to go with an athletic receiver like Demaryius Thomas, Manning and the Broncos figure to have an explosive, well balanced offense.
Why is Denver a good fit for Peyton Manning?
Manning has trust in fellow quarterbacking legend John Elway, and Elway’s reassurances likely tipped Peyton’s decision. Denver has a solid offensive line with one of the best left tackles in football in Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas has as much athletic ability as any wide receiver Manning has played with.
The Broncos are clearly the favorites to repeat as champions of the AFC West. Peyton Manning is likely to sign a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of five years for $95 million with guaranteed money and structure being negotiated.
What are the repercussions of the Manning signing?
San Francisco– The 49ers have to make amends with free agent quarterback Alex Smith who was feeling less than loved after the team made it public that they were in the pursuit of Manning. Smith led the team to the NFC title game after having a career year throwing 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 2011. Smith visited the Miami Dolphins this past week and received mild interest league-wide.
The 49ers and Jim Harbaugh helped resurrect Alex Smith’s career and it’s in the best interests of both parties to let bygones be bygones and reconnect.
Tennessee– The Titans are in the position in which there’s really nothing lost by going after Peyton Manning. Tennessee already has their quarterback of the present in Matt Hasselbeck and their signal caller of the future in 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker. Although there might be some sore feelings about the Manning chase, both quarterbacks are under contract and will move on.
The only potential ramification for the Titans is that they procured much of their free agent efforts into Manning and missed out on potentially signing defensive end Mario Williams. The team also allowed defensive end Jason Jones to leave in free agency.
Tim Tebow– The former first-round pick has lost a starting job that many believe he didn’t deserve anyway, at least initially. Tebow finished 32nd in completion percentage and will likely have to make a new start with another franchise, even though he is currently under contract.
Although Jacksonville, Tebow’s home town has been rumored as a team of interest, a high-ranking Jaguars official told ESPN Florida that the team has “zero interest” in trading for Tebow.
Other potential landing spots for the dynamic runner are Miami, New York (Jets), St. Louis or possibly Cleveland.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie