Peyton Manning is more productive than he’s ever been, and whether he’s deciphering defenses at the line of scrimmage on game day or on his iPad during the week, his love for the game hasn’t waned.
The final piece of evidence that Manning is as good as ever came Monday.
As expected, Manning passed the exam on his surgically repaired neck that was required by his contract with the Broncos that will pay him $20 million next season, according to a person with knowledge of the results.
Manning has said that if doctors tell him he’s at risk physically, he'd have no problem calling it a career.
After his four neck procedures, including a spinal fusion that sidelined him for all of 2011 and eventually led to his release from Indianapolis, Manning has said he has steeled himself for that possibility.
After the Colts released him, Manning signed a five-year, $96 million deal with Denver, where he’s thrown for 100 TDs, including the playoffs, and won two AFC West titles.
Manning won his fifth MVP award in 2013, when he set single-season records by passing for 5,547 yards and 55 TDs while guiding the Broncos, the highest-scoring team in NFL history, to their first Super Bowl in 15 seasons.
Manning, who will be 38 next season, said during Super Bowl week that he had no intention of retiring after the Super Bowl.
NFL: Graham a tight end
The NFL formally designated Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal. Because Graham often split out from the offensive line as a receiver would, there have been questions concerning whether the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement calls for Graham to have a receiver’s tag, worth $12.1 million.
Graham still could file a grievance, leaving an arbitrator to decide which tag is appropriate.
He caught a team-leading 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Redskins tag Orakpo
The Redskins placed a franchise tag on three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, all but ensuring he will remain with the team next season. The Redskins used the non-exclusive tag, worth about $11.5 million for 2014. He remains eligible to become a free agent later this month, but Washington will have the right to match any offer by another team and could receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if he signs elsewhere. The Redskins will continue to work on a long-term deal with the 2009 first-round draft pick. Orakpo, 27, has 39½ sacks over five years — but he has twice torn the pectoral muscle near his left shoulder, leading to questions about his durability . . . The Bills chose not to use the franchise tag to retain safety Jairus Byrd, allowing the three-time Pro Bowl player to become an unrestricted free agent next week. Byrd has 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in 73 career games.
Grimes back with Miami
Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes cashed in on his career comeback with the Dolphins. He signed a $32 million, four-year contract to remain with Miami. The deal, which includes $16 million guaranteed, rewards the 30-year-old Grimes for his recovery from an Achilles’ tendon injury that forced him to miss almost all of the 2012 season. The Dolphins gave him a one-year contract in 2013, and he had perhaps his best season, making four interceptions while playing in all 16 games . . . Wide receiver Anquan Boldin will be back with the 49ers next season. San Francisco and Boldin agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with $9 million guaranteed. Boldin, 33, led San Francisco with 85 catches for 1,179 yards to go with seven touchdowns last season . . . The Titans agreed to a multiyear contract with safety Bernard Pollard, keeping their top tackler off the free agent market. Pollard started all 16 games last season and led Tennessee with 142 tackles. He also had three interceptions . . . The Eagles signed defensive lineman Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract. The former undrafted free agent had 78 tackles and one sack last season.
Worilds transition tagged
The Steelers designated linebacker Jason Worilds as the team’s transition player for 2014. Worilds was set to become a free agent next week, but now the Steelers will have five days to match any offer he receives. The transition tag for linebackers is $9.754 million. Last season he set career highs in starts (11), tackles (54), sacks (8), and forced fumbles (2) . . . The Browns aren’t letting Alex Mack walk away freely. The team locked the Pro Bowl center into a one-year, $10.039 million contract by designating him as their transition player. The Browns are expected to try and sign Mack to a long-term contract. The 6-foot-4-inch, 311-pounder has not missed one offensive play since being a first-round draft pick in 2009, a run of 4,998 consecutive snaps . . . The Buccaneers revealed a redesigned uniform, part of a new look for next season. The team announced Monday that the base uniform color has a richer looking pewter, juxtaposed with a brighter shade of ‘‘Buccaneer Red.’’ It also has a ‘‘Bay Orange’’ as a new primary trim color, which reflects the Buccaneers’ early uniforms . . . In an article on themmqb.com, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman blasted the league’s proposed ban on a racial slur, calling the idea “atrocious.”