So Peyton Manning has dropped off a bit, and at age 39 probably isn’t going to turn that around. But he’s still Peyton Manning, who singlehandedly makes the Broncos a playoff contender and who tons of crappy teams would love to have. Denver may or may not have made an attempt to move him this offseason, but they definitely don’t feel he’s worth what he’s making.

Last night, Denver sports radio host Benjamin Allbright reported that the Broncos unsuccessfully tried to trade Manning to the Texans, and hand the reins to presumed successor Brock Osweiler.

Well, that’d be a pretty huge story! But it was quickly and emphatically denied by the Broncos:

Three Texans sources also told the Houston Chronicle that the report was false. But then, a second report by CBS Houston claims that the Broncos and Texans did have “very preliminary” trade talks.

Whether it was true or not—and the Broncos, who probably aren’t winning a Super Bowl in the next two years and could still get a decent haul for Manning, would probably be well-served shopping him around—this felt like one of those where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire things. You don’t go from “being totally happy paying a QB $19 million a year” to “being forced to deny trade rumors about him.”

Here’s some more smoke, though this is probably closer to the extent of it:

Ten million is a pretty enormous pay cut to ask of anyone; that’s more than half of Manning’s salary. Manning did indeed agree to a restructuring back in March, which amounted to a $4 million pay cut that could conceivably be recovered via team-based incentives.

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The Broncos’ payroll is set up for this to be the last season before a serious rebuilding—but Manning is still under contract for 2016 for another $19M (and a cap hit even worse than that). Assuming anything close to his expected regression this season, Denver’s going to be even more eager to get out from under that deal. Maybe that could look like a trade, maybe an outright release, or just another demand for a pay cut, but this year Manning will be doing something he hasn’t done in a long while: playing for a contract.