The Denver Broncos will have Peyton Manning back at a discount next year, but rumors indicate that the future Hall of Famer will likely have only one more season in him.
Manning was reportedly considering retirement for weeks before he agreed to come back in 2015 at a $4 million pay cut. The deal was signed on Wednesday, with Manning returning to the game at age 39 for what will be his 15th season.
The deal gives more urgency to the Denver Broncos, who have been at the brink of a championship during each season of the Peyton Manning era, but always ended in disappointment, with two one-and-done playoff losses and a 35-point blowout in the Super Bowl.
As Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post noted, the deal itself seems to signify that Peyton Manning will retire after this season.
“But money reveals the bottom-line truth in pro sports. A pay cut is hard for any proud athlete to swallow, even if Manning ain’t the quarterback he used to be. His urgency to win a Super Bowl has never been greater, because 2015 figures to be his last chance.”
“When Elway slashed the pay of a fellow quarterback he deeply respects from the $19 million in Manning’s original Denver contract to a revised salary of $15 million for the upcoming season, it was as direct as message as any NFL team can send a player: The end is near.”
Peyton Manning’s pay cut will give the Denver Broncos a little more space to find new free agents, but there may be many holes to fill. Tight end Julius Thomas, one of Manning’s favorite targets over the last two years, is likely gone in free agency, and wide receiver Wes Welker is expected to be gone to either free agency or retirement.
The Denver Broncos are rumored to be looking at a couple of free agent pickups — the Denver Post’s Kiszla names Chiefs center Rodney Hudson or Dolphins tight end Charles Clay — but it may not be enough to make up for the lost productivity.
The Broncos will probably have other difficulties going into 2015. New head coach Gary Kubiak is bringing his West Coast offense, and though he said it’s “easy to build a playbook” for Manning, there is likely to be a learning curve.
But if Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have difficulty transitioning or if Manning’s nagging injuries continue to bother him as they did in 2014, it seems increasingly likely that he will retire after next year.
[Image via Getty]