John Elway is trying to strike a delicate balance between showing deference to one iconic quarterback while securing his future QB.
The Broncos general manager said Peyton Manning ''needs more time'' to determine his future, and he's going to give him that out of respect for the five-time MVP even as he tries to keep Brock Osweiler from bolting the Broncos in free agency next month.
Manning, who turns 40 in March, is pondering retirement after his 18th NFL season, one filled with injuries but which ended in a championship.
Elway said he met with Manning this week and plans to speak with Manning again next week but isn't pressing him for an answer even though Manning's plans could complicate Elway's efforts to re-sign Osweiler - with whom he has yet to speak.
Elway will need to know Manning's intentions by March 9, when the quarterback's $19 million salary for 2016 would become fully guaranteed.
Asked Thursday about Manning possibly returning as Denver's starting QB in 2016, Elway demurred, saying: ''Peyton is the same old Peyton that he was. He's 18 years into it, and again it's going to come down to what Peyton wants to do. If he wants to go through that grind and wants to (do it) again, we'll have those discussions. Peyton led us to a world championship and showed you the championship quarterback that he is.''
Actually, it was the defense that led Denver to the title, with four takeaways and seven sacks in a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Should Manning call it quits, Elway could use the $19 million to sign a bevy of free agents, including keeping Osweiler, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and defensive end Malik Jackson, among others.
Speaking at the league's annual scouting combine at Indianapolis, Elway said he met with Manning this week ''and he still needs some more time. We're going to afford him that time. He's deserved that after 18 years in this league.''
Yet, Elway insisted, ''We still have a great deal of interest in Brock. We'd like to do something with Brock. We'll start down those tracks and we'll start talking to Brock about a new contract and see what we can do there. With that in mind, also affording Peyton the time that he deserves, we're not in any rush.''
Osweiler went 5-2 when Manning was out with a foot injury down the stretch.
''I think he proved a lot to us,'' Elway said. ''... I was really excited with the way Brock played. We wouldn't have been world champs without Brock. We needed both quarterbacks to play like they played.''
Asked if he felt Osweiler will want to know Manning's plans before signing a new deal to stay in Denver, Elway said, ''I haven't talked to Brock yet. I would think that's probably something Brock would want to know. At this point in time, we'll talk to Brock, but I'm not going to be able to give him that answer.''
Elway expressed optimism the Broncos will reach agreement with Miller on a long-term deal. Miller said after the Super Bowl he expects negotiations to be ''peaceful,'' and Elway said he's in talks with Miller's representatives and ''we feel good about it.''
Elway also said he'll look into restructuring the contracts of veterans DeMarcus Ware and Ryan Clady, who missed last season with a torn ACL and told The Associated Press he'd be willing to redo his contract to stay in Denver.
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