The Denver Broncos got their Man. Make that Peyton Manning.
Pending final contract negotiations, Manning will join John Elway’s Broncos with hopes of winning another Super Bowl.
So much for Tebowmania.
Still to be decided is what happens to last season’s quarterback sensation, Tim Tebow.
The Broncos and Manning agent Tom Condon spent Monday working out parameters of a deal expected to be worth about $95 million over five years after the NFL’s only four-time MVP called Elway, the Broncos’ revered QB-turned-executive, and told him he had decided to come to Denver.
Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams also said Manning let him know that he had picked the Broncos. Adams released a statement Monday confirming the Titans were out of the running and later said to The Tennessean: “He called me himself and told me he wasn’t coming, that he made his mind up to go with Denver.”
Besides the Titans, the San Francisco 49ers had been a finalist in the chase for Manning, who turns 36 on Saturday and missed all of 2011 because of multiple neck surgeries.
ESPN first reported the record-setting quarterback instructed his agent to negotiate the details of a deal with the Broncos, less than two weeks after the Indianapolis Colts released him rather than pay a $28 million bonus.
“I think it’s a great place for him,” Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers said outside the Broncos’ complex. “I don’t think he made a bad decision. I think he made a great decision. Hopefully we can prove him right and hopefully we can win a lot of games here.”
Despite being sidelined all of last season, Manning’s success in the past — the Colts averaged a 12-4 record from 2001-10 — made him by far this offseason’s top potential signing and perhaps the most desired free agent ever.
He was wooed to Denver by Hall of Fame quarterback Elway, who led the Broncos to two Super Bowl championships and now serves as their vice president of football operations.
Elway, who retired from the game after winning his second straight title in 1999, never sounded all that convinced Tebow was the answer at the sport’s most important position and now could trade the enormously popular but flawed QB.
Tebow energized the Broncos in leading them to the playoffs last season — and has fans all over the country — but his play was erratic.
“I wouldn’t say I feel bad for him,” Ayers said. “It’s a business. And I’m pretty sure Tim understands that. ... We wish him luck, no matter what he does. I hope he’s here. He’s a great leader, a great locker room guy.”
Manning was cut loose March 7 by the Colts. The move marked the end of an era, a 14-year alliance between the team that drafted Manning No. 1 overall and the QB who brought Indianapolis from football irrelevance to the 2007 Super Bowl title and a second appearance in the NFL championship game three years later.
But with Manning’s rehab continuing, the Colts decided it was time to rebuild from top to bottom, and they are expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick in April’s draft.
Two days after standing alongside Colts owner Jim Irsay at an emotional farewell news conference, Manning began his free agency tour in the place it was ending: Denver. Manning landed on Tebow’s turf with all the trappings of star treatment — flown to town on a chartered plane, then spending the day with Elway, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders.
From there, Manning crisscrossed the country in search of a new team, as various clubs courted a guy with more than 50,000 yards passing, nearly 400 touchdowns and 11 Pro Bowl selections. After Denver, next up was a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals, and he also spent time speaking with — or throwing for — the Titans, 49ers and Miami Dolphins, with TV cameras and even helicopters often on the trail.
In the end, though, Manning decided he wanted to trade in his Colts horseshoe helmet for one adorned by a Bronco. The move would allow him to stay in the AFC, a conference he knows well and one considered weaker than the NFC at the moment, and would re-establish the tantalizing prospect of playing against his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli, in a Super Bowl. They already have three titles in the family.
Manning-to-Denver also creates a fascinating dynamic with Tebow, only months after the former Heisman Trophy winner was the focus of the NFL regular season and perhaps the most talked-about athlete in sports, a polarizing figure both because of his style of play — as far as possible from a classic, dropback passer — and his outspoken religious beliefs.
After taking over a struggling team, Tebow led the Broncos to comeback victory after comeback victory, struggling for three quarters before starring in the fourth quarter and overtime. With an offense transformed into a spread option attack built on Tebow’s running, and a strong defense that kept games close, the Broncos won the AFC West title.
Tebowmania reached its apex in the playoffs, when he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the very first play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next week, though, Tebow was smothered by the New England Patriots, who easily eliminated the Broncos 45-10.
A little more than two months later, Tebow could be on the trading block.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chimed in, saying he hoped Tebow wasn’t going anywhere.
“He’s a young man, right? And a year or two of working under John Elway and Peyton Manning, you know, I’m not sure any other quarterbacks around the country get that opportunity,” Hickenlooper said.
Tebow isn’t the only domino that could fall now that the offseason’s biggest free agency question is seemingly settled.
San Francisco could decide to keep its own free-agent QB, Alex Smith, who went to Miami for a visit with the Dolphins after the 49ers’ flirtation with Manning became public. If Smith does go back to the Niners, perhaps Miami will look to trade for Tebow, who played in college at Florida. The Titans, meanwhile, probably will stick with grooming Jake Locker, who was a first-round draft pick a year ago.
Denver, meanwhile, could try to give Manning some new targets, because they still have millions of dollars in salary-cap space available. The Broncos did not exactly have a wealth of wideouts last season, other than Thomas, and they lost Eddie Royal to the San Diego Chargers as a free agent.
Eric Decker struggled to catch Tebow’s erratic passes, and was plagued with drops, but would seem a perfect fit for Manning’s precise passing game.
Ayers said he hoped the Broncos would be able to persuade other free agents to join the Broncos, such as Manning’s former Colts teammates Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark.
Running back Willis McGahee tweeted: “To all my free agents across the nfl, I think u know what time it is.”
Former teammates of Elway’s were just as excited, with Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe tweeting: “I think (at)Terrell—Davis and I should round up the old gang and make a comeback.”
“I got my cleats,” Davis fired right back, “I’ll meet u (at) Dove Valley!”
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.
Reach out to AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Facebook and http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
The Denver Broncos got their Man. Make that Peyton Manning.
- Pro Sports
Grinding away: Phegley, Ashley strive for shot in major leagues
Being a catcher in professional baseball is taxing. Not only on the knees and hands — and various other parts of the human anatomy — but it’s a mental grind as well.
Wayne gets special escort to Colts’ training camp
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has seemingly raised the bar the last several years when it comes to making flashy arrivals for Indianapolis Colts training camp. So when the unmistakable roar of an IndyCar engine was heard on the Anderson University campus Wednesday morning, nobody was surprised. Wayne, decked out in an official racing uniform and custom-made helmet, had reported for duty.
Pacers sign Stuckey, face uphill battle
Last week, the Indiana Pacers lost Lance Stephenson. On Monday, they replaced one of the NBA’s best young players with shooting guard Rodney Stuckey. It’s a swap that will make it a challenge for Indiana to win a third straight title in a division that might be the toughest in basketball.
Pacers’ Stephenson goes to Hornets
Lance Stephenson is bringing his swag to Charlotte. The controversial shooting guard has agreed to a $27 million, three-year deal with the Hornets, according to a person familiar with the contract. The deal includes a team option for the third season.
AP Source: Pacers get Stuckey for one year
A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Indiana Pacers have agreed to terms with free agent guard Rodney Stuckey on a one-year deal to help replace the departed Lance Stephenson.
Major League All-Star Game: Bring on the heat
Mike Matheny had quite the choice for the National League’s All-Star starter.
There was his own Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace with a 12-4 record and a 1.83 ERA. And there was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA and fresh off a 41-inning scoreless streak that ended last week. He chose Wainwright, who will start tonight at Target Field against the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez.
Pacers face new obstacles in NBA Central
The road to another Eastern Conference final just got a whole lot tougher for the Indiana Pacers. In less than a month, they’ve seen their division transformed from Lottery Central to the NBA’s center of attention.
Pacers sign three free agents
The Pacers couldn’t keep waiting around for Lance Stephenson to make up his mind. So on Friday, they went to work. The two-time Eastern Conference runner-ups announced they had signed three free agents — backup big man Lavoy Allen, swingman C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez, a sharp-shooting forward from Europe.
Odum heads for Vegas with Kings summer team
Terre Haute native Jake Odum scored three points in the Indiana Pacers’ 84-74 victory on Thursday over the Miami Heat in the Orlando Summer League.
Odum has 5 points for Pacers in summer play
Former Indiana State standout Jake Odum contributed five points, three assists and a steal in 15 minutes on the court Wednesday for the Indiana Pacers summer league team.
Odum scores 2 points off bench for Pacers
Three of the top picks in last month’s draft are adjusting to NBA at different speeds at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
ISU's Odum talks about agreeing to play for Pacers' summer-league team
No team selected him in the two-round NBA draft Thursday night, but Terre Haute native and four-year Indiana State basketball standout Jake Odum agreed Friday to play for the Indiana Pacers’ summer-league squad next month.
LeBron James tells Heat he will become a free agent
LeBron James delivered his message loud and clear, without actually saying a word.
He’s willing to leave Miami, if that’s what it will take to win more championships. And what happens next will likely be up to not just the Heat, but Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well.
Big man curse always affects NBA draft
Greg Oden has had years to think about the plight of his knees, and still has no good answers. The No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft is a poster child for big man bad luck, an epidemic that’s been sweeping the league for years. The latest victim seems to be Joel Embiid, a 7-footer expected to be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft before a recently suffered stress fracture in his right foot almost certainly robbed the former Kansas star of that chance.
Retiring as Colt, Clark appreciates Terre Haute fans
Dallas Clark was always a fan favorite when the Indianapolis Colts conducted their annual summer training-camp workouts at Rose-Hulman. During an emotional 45-minute retirement ceremony Wednesday morning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Clark — who spent 11 seasons as a tight end in the NFL (nine with the Colts) and signed a one-day career-ending contract with the Colts this week — admitted the obvious. The team’s fans in Terre Haute meant a lot to him too.
Team’s all-time top tight end Clark to retire as Colt
Jeff Saturday did it last year, returning to the Indianapolis Colts after a brief stint as a center with the Green Bay Packers and officially ending his National Football League career with the team where he had his most success. Now it looks like Dallas Clark will be following in Saturday’s footsteps.
FROM TERRE HAUTE TO THE MAJORS: Catchers Phegley, Lucas putting together solid seasons
Two Vigo County catcher prospects are accumulating strong numbers as backstops in professional baseball.
Terre Haute North product Josh Phegley has three home runs in his past six games to put his power numbers close to on par with his career-best 2013 season, and West Vigo alum Jeremy Lucas took a six-game hitting streak into Friday night’s doubleheader for the Carolina Mudcats.
Reed signs with Astros
A.J. Reed’s Wednesday was already pretty good when he was named Baseball America’s College Player of the Year in the morning. In the afternoon, it got even better for the Terre Haute native. The Houston Astros, who drafted Reed with the first pick of the second round in last week’s Major League Baseball draft, announced that they had agreed to a deal with Reed. According to several sources, Reed signed his deal for $1.35 million.
Master of ovals, Ed Carpenter celebrates win at Texas
Car owner Ed Carpenter now drives his car only on ovals. He does it well.
Carpenter won the IndyCar Series race on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, staying in front of Will Power during a two-lap shootout after a late caution.
A.J. Reed picked by Astros with first pick of second round
Terre Haute native A.J. Reed wasn’t expecting the Houston Astros to be the team that would select him in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft.
But now that they nabbed him late Thursday night with the first pick of the second round, No. 42 overall, he’s ready to wear an Astros cap.
Ex-Sycamore Lutz begins NFL journey with Colts
The end of the journey. Or, really, just the beginning. That's how former Indiana State center FN Lutz described his emotions after signing a free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday morning.
Staying together: Pacers eager to keep Stephenson, starters intact
Larry Bird wants Lance Stephenson back with the Indiana Pacers at the right price.
Miami puts emphatic end to Eastern Conference Finals
The Heat became the third franchise in NBA history to reach the title series in four consecutive seasons, a laugher of a conference-title finale getting them there again Friday night. LeBron James and Chris Bosh each scored 25 points, and Miami eliminated the Pacers for the third straight year with a 117-92 romp in Game 6 of the East championship series.
George cries foul after Pacers fall 102-90 to Heat
The Pacers fall behind 3-1 in Eastern Conference Finals.
Mathis apologizes to teammates, wishes he had a 'redo'
Just as Indianapolis Colts players rallied around head coach Chuck Pagano in 2012 and wide receiver Reggie Wayne in 2013, not having outside linebacker Robert Mathis available for the first four games of the 2014 NFL season has elicited a familiar-sounding call.
James helps Heat beat Pacers 87-83 in Game 2
LeBron James scored six straight points to spark the decisive 12-2 run and the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 87-83 on Tuesday night to leave the Eastern Conference finals tied at a game apiece.
James had 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade had 23 points, 13 in the first half when the Heat desperately needed them to stay close.
Game 3 is Saturday in Miami.
Pence, Indianapolis mayor lament losing Super Bowl
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard are lamenting the city losing its bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl.
James, Heat seek to regroup vs. Pacers
LeBron James is ready to help the Miami Heat get even against the Indiana Pacers.
No longer shooting like a brick ‘Wall’
It’s unclear exactly when John Wall got his mojo back. Maybe it started on the plane ride to Indianapolis, when he watched movies and remained unusually quiet while thinking to himself: “If we lost this series, I’d put it all on my shoulders.”
Pacers blown out by Wizards 102-79
Marcin Gortat had 31 points and 16 rebounds, John Wall added 27 points and the Washington Wizards rode a 39-rebound advantage to a 102-79 rout of Indiana on Tuesday night, cutting the Pacers’ lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals to 3-2.
Washington can even the series at home Thursday in Game 6.
It was a stunning turnaround for a team that had lost the last three. But with Gortat matching a career high in points and posting a playoff career high in rebounds, Washington held a 62-23 rebounding edge.
- More Pro Sports Headlines
- Grinding away: Phegley, Ashley strive for shot in major leagues