Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver is already driving up Broncos ticket prices and improving their odds of winning the Super Bowl as one Mile High sports craze supplants another.
Manning on Tuesday officially joined the Broncos, where the four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player will try to end his career with at least one more Super Bowl title.
The 14-year veteran quarterback who missed the 2011 season following neck-fusion surgery, signed a five-year deal with the Broncos that was announced at a news conference ending two weeks of physical exams, passing sessions and media speculation stretching from South Beach in Miami to the San Francisco Bay Area.
He was recruited by John Elway, a two-time Super Bowl- winning quarterback with the Broncos who is now the team’s vice president of football operations.
“He’s a guy that raises all boats,” Elway said at a televised news conference. “My goal is to make Peyton Manning the best quarterback to ever play the game, and he’s got that ability with the football that he’s got left.”
Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The contract is worth $96 million, ESPN reported, citing an unidentified person in the league. The Broncos didn’t immediately say if the contract included provisions to protect them financially should Manning’s neck injury persist.
Manning, 35, who left the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, will take over at quarterback from Tim Tebow, who spawned a fad known as “Tebowing” and became one of the most popular athletes in the nation by helping the Broncos win a playoff game last season after a 1-4 start.
“Manning immediately becomes the biggest athlete and sports celebrity in Denver since John Elway, and will be a transcendent personality in Denver,” Steve Herz, the president and founder of New York-based sports and media talent agency IF Management, said in an e-mail.
News of the contract talks sent the odds of Denver winning the 2013 Super Bowl tumbling to 10-1 from 50-1 at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino’s sports book, Jeff Sherman, the book’s assistant manager, said in an e-mail.
“That’s a pretty darn good defense, and with Peyton Manning making first downs and controlling the clock a little bit, that defense will be even better,” said former 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who’s now an analyst for the NFL Network. “I think we’re going to see a similar offense to what we saw in Indy for 14 seasons.”
An hour after word emerged yesterday of Manning’s plan to reject pitches by the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans, the prices for season tickets at the Mile High city’s Sports Authority Field jumped about 25 percent at online ticket reseller StubHub.com, according to spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer.
Within 15 minutes, a person from Pennsylvania bought four Broncos season tickets for $750 apiece, Ferrer said in an e-mail. An hour later the cheapest ticket on the site were going for more than $1,000, and at least 50 had been purchased.
Denver, which won the American Football Conference’s West Division title with an 8-8 record last season, now has the fourth-best odds of winning the Super Bowl behind the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, according to the LVH’s sportsbook. The Broncos’ Super Bowl odds were 60-1 less than a month ago.
Denver also has 5-1 odds of winning the conference championship after opening at 25-1 following last season.
Manning, who missed all of his 14th season in Indianapolis after neck-fusion surgery, was cut by the Colts a day before the team had to commit to pay him a $28 million bonus and a $7.4 million salary in 2012.
He met with the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, 49ers, Titans and Broncos before reportedly deciding on Denver, which last season won seven of its last 11 regular-season games and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs for its first postseason win in seven years.
“The other teams that he was looking at, the 49ers and Tennessee, by record and on paper were better teams,” Mariucci said on the NFL Network. “So I think John Elway and coach John Fox did one heck of a recruiting job on Peyton Manning to say this is the best place for you, your career and your future with a great chance of winning.”
Denver will try to trade Tebow after Manning is signed, ESPN said, citing unidentified people.
Tebow, a 24-year-old second-year player, was named America’s favorite active pro athlete in an ESPN fan-based poll in January, taking 3 percent of the vote. Manning was fourth with 1.8 percent.
Sales of Tebow’s jersey from April 2011 through February were second only to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Manning was 18th, falling from fourth the previous year.
The move may boost sales of Manning jerseys. Brett Favre’s shirt was the No. 1 seller from April 2008 to March 2009 after he moved to the New York Jets from the Packers. He ranked third the previous year.
Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl title in February 2007 and was named league MVP in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. His 54,828 yards passing, 4,682 completions and 399 touchdowns are third on the NFL career list, trailing Favre and Dan Marino in each category.
Tebow’s 46.5-percent completion percentage last season was the lowest among NFL starting quarterbacks. He was second on the team with 660 rushing yards for a Broncos offense that led the NFL with an average of 164.4 yards rushing a game.
“They’re going to have to change their mentality,” said Warren Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who’s now an NFL Network analyst. “That’s the challenge. They’re going from a ball control, running game-oriented offense to a Peyton Manning running the show in the thin air of Denver offense.”
“I can tell this organization is committed to winning,” Manning said. “In the end I felt the Broncos were just a great fit.”
Elway was among the first to contact Manning once the release from the Colts was final, and Manning said he’s learned that Elway hasn’t changed since the Hall of Fame quarterback retired as a Super Bowl champion after the 1998 season.
“Now I’m seeing him as a leader of a franchise and I just really liked what he had to say,” Manning said. “Everybody knows what kind of a competitor he was as a player, but I can tell he’s just as competitive in this new role, and that got me excited.”
Manning will wear No. 18, his jersey number with the Colts. It had been retired by the Broncos to honor Frank Tripucka, now 84, one of the team’s first quarterbacks in the 1960s, who gave his blessing to have it returned to active status.
“I feel that he really wants me to wear his number,” Manning said.