ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver quarterback John Elway, who said he "bleeds Bronco orange and never planned on playing anywhere else," is now the highest-paid player in the National Football League.
Elway, a 10-year veteran, signed a new four-year contract with the Broncos yesterday worth a reported $20 million, which surpasses the five-year, $22 million pact signed in 1992 by Miami's Dan Marino.
"I'm thrilled to death," Elway told a media gathering. "For me to be able to end my career in Denver is great. [Broncos owner] Pat Bowlen has compensated me very well."
"John has earned every penny involved in this contract," Bowlen said. "To coin a cliche, John has done it the old-fashioned way -- he's earned it."
The contract assures Elway, 32, will wear his familiar No. 7 jersey through the 1996 season, which would give him 14 years in the NFL. He said he may retire then, but added that if he's still healthy, he would consider playing another two seasons.
Elway, who played at Stanford, was the first pick in the 1983 draft by the Baltimore Colts. He spurned the Colts and was traded to the Broncos.
Famous for guiding the Broncos to three Super Bowls -- all blowout losses -- Elway is 96-57-1 as a starter. Last year, he became the 15th NFL quarterback to pass for 30,000 career yards.
Pro football fans have for many years recognized Elway's talents for leading the Broncos to come-from-behind wins. He has engineered 31 fourth-quarter game-saving drives in 10 years.
He played in only 12 games last fall, and a shoulder injury that sidelined him for four games led to Denver's late-season slide and helped keep the Broncos out of the playoffs.