Peyton Manning finalizing contract with Broncos

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 1:30 a.m. MDT

Did he ever, landing maybe the most sought-after free agent in NFL history.

Several Broncos predicted the free agency floodgates will swing wide open once Manning officially joins the team.

"I think we'll sign some guys, probably a few guys, like Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, guys waiting to see what Peyton was going to do," Ayers said. "Defensive guys want to play with a lead, and I'm pretty sure guys are going to assume Peyton will put up points in this offense, we have some weapons."

Linebacker Joe Mays, who re-upped with Denver for three years and $12 million, said, "I can't wait to see the finished product and get a chance to go out there and hit the field."

The whirlwind courtship began two days after Manning stood alongside Colts owner Jim Irsay at an emotional farewell news conference. The Broncos flew Manning into town on a chartered plane and he then spent 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 chased 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.

Last week, Manning worked out for Elway and company in North Carolina at Duke's athletic facilities. Elway said afterward that Manning "looked comfortable" throwing the ball.

A few days later, Manning decided he wanted to trade in his Colts horseshoe helmet for one adorned by a Bronco.

The move allows 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 — Eli with two. Now the older brother has a chance to even the score.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chimed in Monday, saying he hoped Tebow wasn't going anywhere and could serve an apprenticeship under Manning.

"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.

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who was Manning's backup at Tennessee, said he never tried to talk Manning into coming to Colorado but was impressed by the zip on Manning's passes when he worked out with him at Duke earlier this year.

"He was fine. I kept telling him how impressed I was, how far he'd come since he came out after he had surgery," Helton said. "I'm an untrained eye, but I knew it hurt when I caught it."

With Manning joining the Broncos, oddsmakers in Las Vegas immediately made Denver one of the top choices to win the Super Bowl next season, which will be played in Manning's hometown of New Orleans.

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Facebook and http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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