Reports: Peyton Manning heading to Denver

(RNN) – ESPN broke the news and multiple sources are confirming that Peyton Manning has chosen to continue his football career at Denver. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Manning and his agent were wrapping up a 5-year, $90 million dollar deal.

Manning visited Denver on Friday, after which former Broncos QB and vice president of operations John Elway tweeted, "We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C. He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there. Watching him throw today was the next step in this important process for our team and Peyton. It was a productive visit and went well."

Maning, 35, departed the Indianapolis Colts after neck surgery ended his 2011 season. He has been one of the most highly sought-after free agents in NFL history since then. He worked out for San Francisco and Tennessee last week, also.

Manning's decision leaves the future of Broncos QB Tim Tebow in doubt.

Maning left the Colts after a lengthy career.

"I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts," Manning said. "I played with so many great teammates here and have been part of a great organization."

Manning, 35, and owner Jim Irsay talked in a joint news conference about how "circumstances" brought them to the decision. Both appeared emotional about the parting of ways and made clear he was leaving on good terms.

Irsay said Manning's number, 18, would be retired by the team.

"The 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field," he said.

Manning said he understood the reality of the business and that "nothing lasts forever." But he made it clear he planned to continue his playing career.

"Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do," he said. "And I still want to play."

Manning said the money and his contract had not been an issue in the decision. But Irsay did make clear that the team's salary cap, along with the ongoing rebuilding process, played a part.

Irsay spoke about the two beginning their careers together, he as a 37-year-old owner and Manning as a 22-year-old QB coming from Tennessee. He said as difficult as the move was, he knew that their "journey has just begun."

"He is always part of the horseshoe," Irsay said. "I just can't thank him enough."

Manning expressed his gratitude and love for the organization, his teammates, the fans and the city.

"Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart," he said. "I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback."

The decision came one day before a $28 million bonus would be owed to the quarterback. If Manning is released, he will not receive the bonus.

Reporters spotted Manning and Irsay together in Indianapolis on Tuesday. When asked his thoughts about the pending release, Manning replied, "We'll do it tomorrow."

He becomes a free agent and can sign with any team upon his release. Teams rumored to be interested include the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.

Last month, Manning began strenuous workouts for the first time since his second neck surgery in September, which fused two of his vertebrae together. ESPN reported he was working out at Duke University with some of his former coaches.

The Colts went 2-14 without their franchise player in 2011, two years removed from a 14-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance.

Irsay fired the general manager, head coach and most of the staff after the season ended. The team's record got them the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and they reportedly will select Stanford QB Andrew Luck.

Manning, who was picked No. 1 overall by the Colts in 1998, has been with the team his entire career. The Colts signed the perennial All-Pro to a five-year, $90 million contract in July.

He earned an NFL record four MVP awards and compiled nearly 55,000 yards passing with 399 touchdowns in 13 seasons.

He also took the Colts to two Super Bowls, winning the Lombardi Trophy in 2007. Manning missed the 2011 season after multiple neck surgeries.

The doctor that performed the surgery said Manning is cleared to resume his playing career and the damaged nerves had healed, allowing the QB to throw with improved velocity and distance.

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