Peyton Manning reportedly chooses Broncos, Tim Tebow to be traded

Update: Just over an hour after our post, on view below, about rumors that Peyton Manning was leaning toward playing for the Tennessee Titans next season comes very different news.

ESPN is reporting that Manning has chosen to sign with the Denver Broncos next season.

Here's the Twitter string from ESPN's Adam Schefter. First, this:

That was followed by this tweet about Tim Tebow's fate:

Additional details:

Plus stuff about the contest's losers:

First take: This is an extremely exciting day for Broncos Nation as a whole. Not that there aren't risks involved in throwing a truckload of cash at Manning, who's coming off a neck injury that kept him sidelined for an entire season, or mixed feelings in regard to Tebow, who made Denver the talk of the NFL thanks to the inexplicable victories he helped manufacture. But for now, cherish the moment -- and then check out the speculation below to see what a difference an hour or two can make.

Original post, 8:30 a.m. March 19: Another week, another boatload of questions prompted by the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. While Manning hasn't given any public hint about which way he's leaning, the grapevine suggests Tennessee is in the driver's seat. If the Titans win his services, what's that mean for the Broncos and their relationship with Tim Tebow?

Also-rans in the Manning pursuit are risking repercussions of the sort that may or may not impact the San Francisco 49ers. When it became known that the team's braintrust worked out Peyton early last week, before either the Broncos or the Titans got the chance to do likewise, reports about unhappiness from the camp of current SF starting quarterback Alex Smith began to surface. And then, over the weekend, came this tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter:

Schefter followed with more info:

Note that the 49ers came mighty close to reaching the Super Bowl last season with Smith at the helm. If the squad winds up losing him and not getting Manning, the result could be a step backward for a franchise on the rise, as well as the most overt mishandling of a QB situation since the Josh McDaniels-Jay Cutler disaster.

Tebow, too, can choose to look at the Broncos' desire for Manning as disrespect toward his abilities, particularly in light of the key role he played in leading Denver to the playoffs last season. But thus far, he's remained publicly circumspect rather than talking about his interest in playing elsewhere.

Of course, his options are much more limited than Smith's. Jacksonville seemed like the squad most likely to welcome Tebow should Denver choose to cut him free -- at least until the Jags inked Chad Henne, which pretty much eliminated a potential roster spot for The Chosen One. Since then, no other outfit has given the slightest indication they'd want Timmy, suggesting that most NFL experts continue to see the miracle wins he generated last season as flukes rather than evidence that he's capable of becoming a star signal-caller over the long haul.

Given this scenario, Tebow may wind up staying in Denver whether Manning comes to Colorado or not -- and Sports Illustrated's Peter King thinks that could wind up being a good thing for all involved. "I'd love to see him be the jack-of-all-trades runner-receiver-very occasional thrower who'd keep defenses honest," he writes about a Manning-led Broncos offense.

King acknowledges that this opinion isn't widely held. "If Manning picks Denver, I'd be the only person alive who'd think Denver shouldn't trade Tebow," he maintains. Would John Elway, who seems to be driving the Broncos' football operations these days, "dump him for, say, a fifth-round pick?" he wonders. His answer -- probably, although King would hold out for a third-rounder or higher.

If, on the other hand, Manning returns to his old stamping ground of Tennessee, Tebow would be in the same position as before -- the starting quarterback going into training camp, but with no guarantee thereafter. Still, the Broncos' would face massive public outcry should he be supplanted by, say, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden or anyone else wearing a number other than fifteen. And considering team execs' apparent eagerness to get out from under Tebow-mania, they may determine that the only way they can move forward is without him. The PR hit would be huge in the short term, but even that might be preferable to dragging out the situation.

Such a controversial move could be avoided if Manning brings his aerial circus to Denver. Even Tebow lovers would have to admit that if he's healthy, Peyton is an all-time great. As such, Elway and company are currently in the position of hoping and praying that the current rumors are wrong.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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