The Broncos aren't currently for sale, but there's a strong sense they could be in new hands next year

By Jason La Canfora

(CBS SPORTS) – Hall of Fame quarterback and Denver resident Peyton Manning is among football people closely watching the Broncos’ pending sale, with league sources indicating that he has already spoken to at least two potential suitors for the team.

While the team is not currently for sale, and there is no set timetable as to when it will come to the market, there is a strong sense among many owners and many in the NFL office that the team could be in new hands next year. Early estimations are the franchise could sell for in the range of $4 billion, and, with the team in limbo for years and with the squabbles among the Bowlen heirs quite public, interested parties have been planning for years for the eventual transaction.

Manning is well aware of the situation, given his tenure with the team and his roots in Denver, sources said, and has had contact with potential ownership groups to glean how he might be able to have a role both as a potential minority investor as well as perhaps with the management of the team as well. Manning, one of the iconic faces in the history of the game, has had no shortage of opportunities to be involved in the game in various capacities since retirement, but has chosen to this point to dabble in the media and production and help raise his family.

But those who know him well know how competitive he remains and he much being involved in the stewardship of a successful NFL franchise would mean to him. He has been immersed in the game his entire life – as has the entire Manning family – and his unique insights, knowledge and connections would be a significant asset to any ownership group, to say nothing of him hoisting a Lombardi Trophy as the Broncos quarterback. He is football royalty.

While much has been made recently of a potential ownership bid by hip hop mogul Jay-Z, league sources continue to indicate that it looks like a more remote proposition, particularly with the Broncos set to perhaps set a new mark for an NFL franchise sale. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is also very interested in owning an NFL team, as has been reported here for quite some time, but some in ownership circles also maintain that this particular sale might not be his eventual entrée into the league. Furthermore, there are multiple potential ownership groups, who would have strong support among owners and investment bankers who have ties to the Rocky Mountain region, which could bode well for them, with the Broncos a regional foothold that draws fans from multiple states.

It remains to be seen which football opportunity will eventually lure Manning back into the league – beyond his current broadcasting role – but it seems inevitable to many who know him that he will be back, and an opportunity to do so in Denver would have a unique appeal. Current Broncos executive John Elway, who has deep roots in Denver as well and has functioned in an ownership role in other businesses, would also love to remain with the franchise in some capacity, sources said, even if sold, and he too is aware of some of the potential bidders for the team whenever it does come to market.