ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Two days, $56 million. Yes, John Elway can handle the checkbook almost as nimbly as he once threw the football.
For the second straight offseason, the Broncos quarterback-turned-front office chief made as big a splash as anyone in NFL free agency. In the span of 48 hours, he added receiver Wes Welker and four more players — all with the single goal of getting Peyton Manning and the Broncos to the Super Bowl as soon as possible.
“I was probably the one pitching to him, trying to make this happen and everything else,” Welker said yesterday about his discussions with Elway.
The subtext: At 31 and entering his 10th year in the league, Welker wants to win Super Bowls more than cash huge checks. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract — relatively modest for the most productive receiver in the league over the past six years.
And anyone who thought Elway would stand pat after a 13-3 season: “They don’t know John Elway,” said former Bronco safety John Lynch.
“I love it,” Lynch said. “They’re in it to win it. I think they’re doing it prudently, too. Welker was a bargain.”
Many players, of course, are more willing to let a few million slide if they can play with a teammate of Manning’s caliber.
Elway’s successful pursuit of the four-time MVP ended up as the story of last offseason. Manning lived up to the hype, throwing for 37 touchdowns and 4,659 yards. But Denver lost to Baltimore in the divisional round of the playoffs. That, plus the reality that no roster remains the same from year to year in the NFL, put Elway on the clock again this year.
He treated free agency like one of his patented two-minute drills.
“It was quick,” said guard Louis Vasquez, who had a contract with Denver only hours after the signing period began Tuesday. “I didn’t expect it to go as fast as it did.”