NFL offseason still has plenty of betting potential if you know where to look. Here we focus on whether Peyton Manning will retire or will he return to the Broncos, who've undergone a coaching overhaul
I don't know about you, but I surely wouldn't walk away from $21.5 million as that's Manning's combined salary and roster bonus for the Denver Broncos' next season. The bonus is paid on March 10 so clearly a decision will be made ahead of that.
Manning will be returning to a team that won't look very familiar, at least from a coaching staff perspective. Head coach John Fox and the Broncos mutually agreed to part ways, and Fox landed the head-coaching gig in Chicago. Highly-regarded Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase interviewed for a few head-coaching jobs, and Manning praised him to prospective employers, but wasn't hired. So Gase followed Fox to Chicago. Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is now Oakland's head coach.
Denver did appear to do very well in replacing those three. Former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, a long-time backup quarterback in Denver to Broncos boss John Elway, is the new head coach. Kubiak had told other prospective employers he was staying as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, but a return to Denver was too alluring to turn down. Hiring Kubiak was made independent of Manning's potential decision and Manning has never run an offense that Kubiak prefers. Kubiak hired Rick Dennison as his offensive coordinator. Dennison was Baltimore's QBs coach last year, the offensive coordinator from 2010-13 under Kubiak in Houston, and the offensive coordinator in Denver from 2006-08. Kubiak and Dennison turned Matt Schaub into a Pro Bowl QB in Houston so I'm sure they can get on the same page as Manning.
Finally, not that it will impact Manning much, the team hired Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. Houston's defense from 2011-13 was one of the best in the NFL under Phillips. He even replaced Kubiak as the interim coach there late in the 2013 season when Kubiak was fired. So clearly the old band is back together.
The Broncos have some very tough free-agent decisions to make on both sides of the ball, but I'll focus on Manning's side. Receiver Wes Welker almost surely won't be back. He had been minimized as it was and has been dealing with multiple concussions. Welker may retire. The big free agents are receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. Expect the former to get the franchise tag if he and the team can't work out a long-term deal. The Broncos' offense really tailed off late in the year when Julius Thomas was injured, so he's just as important. Elway says re-signing those two are his biggest priorities now that he has a head coach in place.
So About Manning
I wrote about this a few weeks ago when Bovada had released NFL odds on his decision. Odds that Manning would retire were offered as +400 underdog, with him returning a -700 favorite. Those odds have been taken down in the wake of all of the Broncos' moves.
“We had to close after the news Fox was out, as that directly affects these odds,” Bovada sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley wrote. They should be up against post-Super Bowl.
For what it's worth, Manning's peer and No. 1 rival, New England's Tom Brady, says he hopes Manning comes back. You know it will burn Manning if Brady wins a fourth Super Bowl title because that's the guy to whom No. 18 is most compared.
A report from the Denver Post a little over a week ago had sources saying Manning did want to return. He won't decide until he takes an annual physical examination mandated by his contract because of his multiple neck surgeries. Last year, the test results were learned at the beginning of March. Denver wants a decision by March 9, the day before Manning's roster bonus is due.
The Broncos certainly will be Super Bowl contenders again next season if Manning returns. They are currently +1000 fourth-favorites on NFL odds to win Super Bowl 50. If it's Brock Osweiler? Let's just say those odds won't stay at +1000. Here are my projected odds.
Manning returns for 2015: -600
Manning retires: +1000
Manning only plays one more season if he returns: -250
Broncos take a QB in first three rounds of 2015 draft: even money
NFL Free Picks: Manning is back, and Denver takes Colorado State's Garrett Grayson in the second round of the draft -- if he is still there -- as Manning's successor.