Jake's Take: Manning Clearly Won Stare-Down

For the last eight weeks, John Elway and Peyton Manning have been engaged in a high stakes staring contest. Today, Elway blinked. MHH Analyst Jake Marsing muses about the ramifications of the new Manning contract.

For the last eight weeks, John Elway and Peyton Manning have been engaged in a high stakes staring contest. Today, Elway blinked.

Manning was scheduled to make $19M in 2015. According to multiple reports, that number now sits at approximately $15M. Per the Denver Posts’ Mike Klis, the Broncos initially asked for a “far more severe pay cut” than the $4M that was eventually agreed upon. Elway and the Broncos were seeking cash.

Initially, they reportedly sought upwards of $10M in cap relief. Instead, Manning recognized his value to this team, and held his ground. Elway acquiesced. So, instead of signing a top free agent this offseason, the Broncos will be left to pick through the bargain bin in hopes of finding the players they need to fill this roster’s numerous holes.

Last month, MHH reported that the Broncos had begun negotiating with the 5-time NFL MVP, asking for between a $5-9M pay cut. That the amount is reportedly only $4M speaks volumes about the process that has taken place over the last two months, and what the suits at Dove Valley really think about their prospects to win a championship after Manning hangs it up.

Had Elway and his staff been so confident in this team’s chances without Manning, the Duke of Denver would have held his ground in negotiations. Instead, Elway folded to the will of Peyton Manning and his agent Tom Condon. Elway wanted Manning back badly enough that he was willing to sacrifice up to $5M of additional cap room to get him. If that doesn’t tell Broncos fans what Elway really thinks about backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, nothing will.

There have been conflicting reports about the exact structure of the contract, and we won’t know the full extent of the deal’s impact on Denver’s salary cap for the next several days. If it really is only a $4M boost to the cap, fans shouldn’t expect this move to have much of an impact on how Elway approaches the offseason.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the money can be made back through incentives. Thus, this contract “won’t change the Broncos free agency approach.” So, those hoping this newfound cash will allow Denver to sign another high priced free agent, or go bring in another big name, will be sorely disappointed.

This new money won’t allow Denver to sign a single big name. Instead, it’ll allow this Broncos regime to do what they seemingly do best and sign two or three more veteran guys, likely nearing the end of their careers, who’ll be paid too much to produce too little.

At $15M in base salary next season, Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, will make less money than Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, and even brother Eli Manning. Talk about an awkward Thanksgiving dinner.

Manning ought to be commended for taking this step backward financially after a season where he finished top-four in nearly every statistical category quarterbacks are measured by. #18 didn’t ask for a raise after his historic 2013 season, but he accepted a pay cut after one of the best statistical seasons of his career. This “Pey-cut” has little practical impact on this offseason. Instead, it’s little more than an empty gesture to those in Broncos Country who don’t seem to know how good they’ve got it.

This agreement is an olive branch to fans, and Broncos management; turning their heartache and disappointment at not winning a world championship into contractual language. This deal is purely symbolic. The fans who wanted it are only capable of remembering the last thing they saw. The last Manning they saw was a Manning hobbled by injury who laid an egg in a home playoff game. That’s not who Peyton Manning is.

Peyton Manning is a competitor of the highest order. He sees the game differently than anyone who’s ever played his position. He told the Denver Post’s Mike Klis that he’s, “Excited to be back with the Denver Broncos.” Everyone who wears the orange and blue from Fort Collins to Telluride, from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque should be excited, too. This deal gives the Denver Broncos at least one last chance at a world championship.

This deal has been in the works for weeks. Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history stared each other down, and Peyton Manning came out on top, despite the perception that by accepting a pay cut, he lost. Manning used the same keen instincts that’ve served him so well on the football field to win this negotiation because he recognized what the Denver Broncos would be without him. Without Manning, the Broncos are no better than the Buffalo Bills or the Houston Texans.

Don’t think Elway doesn’t know this either. Had he thought this team could contend without Manning, Elway would have held firm and asked for a larger pay cut. Instead, Elway wisely recognized what this team is: a one man show. So, call up Nationwide, order your Papa John’s, and cook up some tasty chicken parm because the Denver Broncos are taking one last ride on the PFM-5000.

Jake Marsing is an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @JakeDMarsing. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook.

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