Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported today that sources inside the Denver Broncos organization confirmed that Peyton Manning does indeed wish to return for 2015. Manning reportedly told John Elway in their meeting Thursday that he is fully prepared mentally and physically to return to the team for his 18th NFL season.
Mortensen's sources, of course, wish to remain anonymous, so as not to steal Manning's thunder and allow him to break the news as he sees fit. But it makes sense. Over the last two and a half weeks of working out with Mackie Shilstone, a trainer renown for his abilities to evaluate athletes and help them to extend their careers, Manning apparently received the assurance that he's in the right shape to return.
Provided the Broncos share Manning's enthusiasm and indeed wish him to return, the next step, once Manning announces his decision, will be to undergo his physical. If he passes the physical and he's still on the roster, his $19M salary will become guaranteed on March 9th.
There's been speculation recently that the Broncos are hesitant to pull the trigger on bringing the 5-time league MVP back, and that they might want him to restructure his contract as a condition to return. But the reality is that the Broncos are projected to have $27M in salary cap space, which is more than enough to re-sign Demaryius Thomas, Terrance Knighton and whichever free agents they wish to target.
Elway orchestrated an elaborate sales pitch to lasso Manning back in 2012 and his contract was one of the key selling points -- obviously. At this point, I'm dubious that after throwing 39 touchdowns and clinching the Broncos fourth straight division title and third straight playoff bye, that the team suddenly views Manning's contract as lopsided.
Bringing Manning back has ramifications on Brock Osweiler, who will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 season. It would likely mean that Osweiler would have played out the entirety of his four-year rookie contract, without having quarterbacked a meaningful down for the Broncos.
If this is indeed Manning's swan song and 2015 is to be his last rodeo, then allowing Osweiler, who the team believes in, to hit free agency unrestricted is not something they want to see happen.
Today, there were rumblings that the Broncos are possibly looking to extend Osweiler now, on a team-friendly deal, which would keep him around long enough to see if he truly is the long-term answer post-Manning.
The issue with extending Osweiler now is how do you measure his value? And how does he measure it? He was a second round pick but he's never started a game in his four-year career. However, if the team truly wants to get a new deal done with Osweiler, I don't see anything that would prevent it from happening. As an untested quarterback, he wouldn't command top dollar on the open market anyway.
Expect Manning and the Broncos to announce his intention to return sometime next week, well in time for the opening of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.