DENVER – In his first day back in the office Monday, John Elway went to work. On his own contract.
The Broncos finalized a five-year deal with Elway to remain as the team's general manager, securing him through the 2021 season. Elway's current contract was set to expire in March. The negotiations took longer than expected as the sides ironed out wrinkles and experienced delays because of vacations.
In the end, it traced back to how this all started. Broncos CEO Joe Ellis insisted the team wanted Elway in the fold for years go come, recognizing his unique value to this franchise and community. And Elway said repeatedly that his desire was to remain with the Broncos.
Talks between the team and Elway have been ongoing for months. The final offer did not change. It was merely a function of Elway returning to Dove Valley and signing the deal. No face-to-face talks were required. And with the signature, stability and certainty returned.
Terms of the contract are unknown, but Elway is expected to be among the highest paid general managers or tops. Seattle's John Schneider is believed to rank first on the list at roughly $4 million. As an executive, Elway has steered the Broncos to the playoffs in five of six seasons, with the team appearing in two Super Bowls and winning Super Bowl 50.
“This is a special place, and the Broncos are home to me. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m excited about the future of this team and this organization,” Elway said in a statement.
Ellis announced the new contract Monday. He had indicated last week that the sides were making progress.
“We’re pleased to reach an agreement on a five-year contract with John to continue leading our football operations,” Ellis said. “During these last six seasons, John’s clearly established himself as one of the best general managers in all of sports. He’s demonstrated impressive football instincts, a strong business acumen and a consistent ability to build competitive teams.
“There’s no doubt John means a great deal to the Broncos, our fans and the entire community. It was important for us to reach this long-term agreement, and we’re all excited to now turn our full attention toward the 2017 season.”
Elway revived the franchise following coach Josh McDaniels' reign of error. It began with the drafting of outside linebacker Von Miller, the signature move in a longterm view to reshape the defense. It included the signing of Peyton Manning, who set NFL records in his four seasons in Denver and helped defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Under Elway's watch, the Broncos have attracted key free agents -- Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders -- and secured core players to longterm deals, among them Miller, cornerback Chris Harris, safety Darian Stewart, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe.
Before becoming the team's GM, Elway fashioned a Hall of Fame career. He served as the Broncos' starting quarterback from 1983-98, leading the team to five Super Bowls and two titles. He culminated his career with back-to-back Super Bowl championships. In 22 seasons with the franchise -- 16 as a player and six as an executive -- the Broncos have appeared in seven Super Bowls, posting more championships (three) than losing seasons (two). The Broncos own a 20-12 playoff record during Elway's tenure as a player and executive and a .651 winning percentage (228-122-1). In 35 seasons without Elway, the team is 237-271-9 (.467) with a 3-7 postseason mark and zero Super Bowl wins.
“I appreciate the trust and confidence that Joe has shown in me,” Elway said. “Pat Bowlen has always put outstanding leadership in place, and I’m grateful for the support Joe gives us to compete for championships each and every year.
Elway is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday in the annual pre-training camp barbecue. Monday's announcement removes a distraction and eases a fan base that has long felt comfortable with No. 7 in charge in the pocket or in the front office.