Peyton Manning: Is the Star Quarterback What the Denver Broncos Paid For?

Joe Rapolla Jr.Featured ColumnistAugust 23, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 18:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos runs onto the field before taking on the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 18, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Peyton Manning's contract is huge.

Like huge huge. 

Like fat man at a buffet huge.  

Five years/$96 million. Not a bad salary for any man, and even a stunning salary for an NFL quarterback.

The Denver Broncos are either geniuses, or crazy. 

When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, they signed potentially the most coveted free agent ever to hit the market. Manning had countless suitors, yet he picked Denver. If you're a Broncos' fan, you have to be happy; Manning is no typical free agent. 

Manning is a 36-year-old, four-time league MVP. He's been to two Super Bowls and won one of them. He's been to the Pro Bowl 11 times. He'll be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

On top of all this, Peyton is the game's definition of a class act. He's donated his time and money to numerous charities; his brother Eli and he were in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, moving boxes and cases of water just like so many other volunteers.

He's a comedic guy, appearing in dozens of commercials and serving as host on Saturday Night Live, and he's a family man. He has two children with his wife Ashley, and remains very close to his tight-knit, football family. 

With a résumé so rounded, the fact that some would even question Denver's signing of Peyton seems, well, outlandish. 

Looking past the molded exterior, however, the cynics do have some warranted arguments. 

As mentioned, Peyton is 36 years old. That's reaching retirement age for a quarterback who spent his whole career healthy, and Peyton has not been healthy. He missed all of the 2011 season with a more serious injury than some care to admit. He needed a cervical neck fusion, and as anyone who has ever experienced back or neck problems can tell you, these things heal in a very fickle manner. 


Taking his age and his health into account, it is fair for some to ask whether Denver was overzealous in signing Peyton.

His stat line is amazing and he's a great guy, but could his days of dissecting defenses and scrambling from pass-rushers be behind him? Is he just avoiding the inevitable, that retirement is the most logical move for him?

After all, wouldn't everyone avoid retirement if they could make an easy $96 million?

The truth is, however, that Peyton's contract was very carefully stipulated. Peyton may be able to hire the best lawyers and agents in the business, but so can the Broncos. Peyton has not cashed $96 million yet.

In fact, "only" his 2012 salary of $18 million is guaranteed to him. After this, a passed physical before the 2013 season guarantees him another $40 million, (2013 and 2014 salaries) and then his 2015 and 2016 salaries are on a year-by-year basis. 

When one looks at it like this, it doesn't seem like Peyton is robbing the Broncos anymore in an attempt to avoid the reality of retirement. It's clear that with the contract Peyton was given, he believes he is healthy and ready to return to football and he wants to add more trophies and accolades to what is already a very full shelf.

Why would he do it otherwise? For $18 million? It's undoubtedly an enormous amount of money, yet Peyton has made more than $100 million throughout his career of contracts and endorsements. 

In a league that is salary cap driven, Denver is one team that actually had money to spend this year. It didn't have to re-sign any huge contract players. (There franchise tag went to kicker Matt Prater, who one could argue was team MVP last season.)

With this money to spend, the Broncos made the choice to spend, but they are really not putting as much on the line as the cynics like to note. They are only paying Peyton for one year, granted a highly paid one year, yet if it doesn't work out and Peyton's neck can't recover, that's that.

With the defense that the Broncos have, the strength of their offensive line and special teams, and the youth of their receivers, bringing in one of the best quarterbacks of all time to make a legitimate Super Bowl push is far within the realm of reason. 

I haven't even touched on what an impact Peyton makes for Denver outside of the win column. Peyton's jersey has been the top-selling one since he has signed with the Broncos. His arrival has made Denver not only a legitimate contender, but also a highly publicized team, which leads to better ticket sales and more advertising at the stadium. 

So. is Peyton the quarterback the Broncos paid for? If one answers "no," then he or she really doesn't have all the facts. I'd label Peyton as a bargain; Denver couldn't have handled another year of Tebow-mania.