- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the sting of the Super Bowl loss still fresh, the Denver Broncos' chief football decision-maker said the team heads into the offseason under the premise that Peyton Manning will return at quarterback for 2014.
Manning has already said on several occasions his intent is to play in 2014, but executive vice president of football operations John Elway added Tuesday that the Broncos will make offseason decisions based on Manning being behind center. But the team knows the 37-year-old can't play forever, so the Broncos will also keep an eye on making a plan for life without Manning at some point.
"Well, we're going to keep building like Peyton is going to be here," Elway said. "If Peyton decided to hang 'em up, we have expectations hopefully to make that transition. It's going to be tough, but we're going to hopefully be ready for that transition, too. We do that by making sure that we do a good job in the draft, drafting well, and having those young guys come in and perform for us."
Elway has consistently talked of maintaining the youth of the Broncos' roster with homegrown players as the foundation. But last year, the Broncos elected -- either because of injuries or the need to fill holes that remained following the draft -- to reel in some veterans with double-digit years of experience. Defensive end Shaun Phillips (who just finished his 10th season), Quentin Jammer (12th) and linebacker Paris Lenon (12th) were all signed to fill needs.
Of the seven players who closed the season on the Broncos' roster who were in at least their 10th year in the league, four were signed when free agency opened last March.
But Manning's return is the foundation for what the Broncos do across the roster. Manning carries a $17.5 million salary-cap charge in 2014, the team's largest.
"Yeah, but I'll tell you right now it's worth it for us to have Peyton Manning," Elway said. "That's just part of when you get a quality quarterback like that, that we have in Peyton Manning. You know that's going to be a big chunk of your salary cap, but we got to figure out ways to find the right players."
Manning said the 43-8 loss Sunday night didn't "change anything" in regard to his plan for next season. Manning is scheduled to have a physical in the coming week on his surgically repaired neck.
But the Broncos did give him an exit physical Tuesday for everything else, including his ankles, and they expect good news from the coming exam, as well. Manning feels good enough physically to have entered the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, which begins Thursday. Certainly, if the team had any concerns about the quarterback, or if Manning himself had any concerns about his neck, a golf tournament would not be on the docket. Manning will likely have his physical before free agency opens March 11.
Elway said Tuesday he had not yet had a chance to speak to Manning since the team returned to Denver on Monday.
Elway disputed the notion that there was more frustration and disappointment among the team's faithful than there was inside the team's complex.
"Let me tell you this: There is not anybody that is more disappointed about what happened on Sunday than everybody in this organization, especially the coaches and the players in that locker room," Elway said. "They are as disappointed because they are the ones that went through the hard work for the whole year. That's where I get disappointed, because I know how hard they worked and I know how disappointing it is when you aren't able to play your best football game in the Super Bowl like we were."
5dEric D. Williams
5dEric D. Williams
5dEric D. Williams