Reporting from Denver -- After scanning the horizon for nearly two weeks, quarterback Peyton Manning found his receiver. The NFL's four-time most valuable player apparently will finish his storied career with the Denver Broncos.
Manning, who sat out the 2011 season recovering from multiple neck surgeries, instructed his agent Monday to work out a deal with the Broncos, expected to be in the neighborhood of $95 million over five years — roughly what he would have gotten from Indianapolis had he remained healthy.
That Manning chose Denver over Tennessee and San Francisco will go down as a front-office coup for John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, whose 2011 team made it to the second round of the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback.
Las Vegas oddsmakers immediately responded to the news by lowering the odds of the Broncos' winning the next Super Bowl to 7 to 1. They were 70 to 1 in February.
Elway has consistently said Tebow needs to improve as a passer to lock down the starting job, so when the opportunity to get Manning arose, the Broncos were aggressive in pursuing him.
"I was one of the Tebow fans that said, 'Hey, let's give this thing a chance,'" said Fox's John Lynch, a former All-Pro safety who spent part of his career with the Broncos. "But there are crazy circumstances that made one of the greatest players of all time available. And to not pounce on that I think would be foolish. This is something the organization had to do."
Manning, who will turn 36 on Saturday, could only hope to end his career the way Elway did — with consecutive Super Bowl victories. (Elway was 36 when he won his first Super Bowl.) Although the former Colts star has yet to disclose his reasons for choosing Denver, it's reasonable to think that the presence of Elway — a Hall of Fame quarterback who truly appreciates his excellence — was a big factor.
"I think it's a great place for him," Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers told reporters 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."
Several Broncos players responded to the news on Twitter, among them tackle Ryan Clady, who tweeted: "Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil tweeted: "We have a ton of work to do but boy we going to have some fun grinding! Gotta put the time in ....Lets welcome Manning Bronco Nation"
The lengthy process of picking a team had a ripple effect throughout the league. The 49ers now must turn their full attention back to re-signing quarterback Alex Smith, who, upon learning his team was secretly pursuing Manning, flew to Miami to meet with the Dolphins.
Tebow almost certainly will be traded, perhaps to Miami or Jacksonville — teams from his home state who are hurting, attendance-wise — or to New England, which might use him as more of a gadget player.
"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."
In Tennessee, Titans owner Bud Adams openly spoke of his desire to land Manning, a formidable AFC South rival for many years, and even offered a "lifetime contract," which would have included a front-office job once Manning's playing days were done.
Adams issued a statement Monday reading: "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."
Manning, a former college star at Tennessee whose wife is from that state, ultimately had a different plan and Monday put it in motion.