He sought out the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team coming off a season where they won the AFC South and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.
“It's been a long time since I've been to the playoffs, my first two years in the league, and [now I] get a chance to get back there,” McManus said. “Everyone dreams of kicking game-winning field goals, which is just great, but it's also even better to be in the playoffs doing those things.
“And so I thrive on those scenarios, ... Obviously, I watched Doug [Pederson] win the Super Bowl with the Eagles and so a great tradition he's got building here and a great organization, a great place to live for me and my family.”
The last time McManus appeared in a playoff game was on Feb. 7, 2016. He kicked field goals of 34, 33 and 30 yards in the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. That capped McManus’ second season in the NFL, and the Broncos have had just one winning season since.
The Jaguars are coming off their second playoff appearance in the past 15 seasons. They rallied from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild card game before losing at Kansas City in the divisional round. They’re the betting favorite (-170) to win the AFC South in 2023 according to Caesar's Sportsbook.
Shortly after being released on May 23, McManus phoned Jaguars special teams coordinator Heath Farwell, whom he had spoken to several times during pre-game warmups, to see if the team would be interested in his services. He also spoke with former Broncos special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who had two stints as an assistant coach/coordinator with the Jaguars, to get his take on Jacksonville.
McManus liked what he heard, the Jaguars liked what McManus could bring and the sides eventually agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract. The Jaguars then traded kicker Riley Patterson to the Detroit Lions for a conditional 2026 seventh-round pick.
McManus’ stronger leg was the biggest reason for the move away from the player who capped the Jaguars’ comeback victory over the Chargers with a 36-yard field goal, Farwell said.
“Riley did a fantastic job last season for us. He was a big part of some big games for us, one of the biggest games in Jaguars history, but getting the opportunity to add Brandon [was too good to pass up],” Farwell said.
“This is a guy that gives us a lot more flexibility not only on kickoffs, to be able to pin them deep and do some different stuff, but it gives us a longer kickoff line on Sundays. At times later in the season, some of those lines got shorter with Riley. This won't be an issue and I think that'll free us up to potentially maybe not go for one when it's a longer distance on fourth down, maybe that's three points that we could take advantage of.”
Patterson made two of his three field-goal attempts from 50-plus yards last season and was just 2 for 4 from that distance in his two-year career. McManus attempted the second-most 50-plus yard field goals in the NFL last season, going 8 of 13, and has attempted more 50-plus yard field goals than any other player since he entered in the league in 2014 (72). He has made 40 and is one of only three kickers to make 40 or more 50-plus yard field goals since 2014 -- joining Matt Prater (50) and Justin Tucker (47).
That certainly can have an impact on third-down play-calling and may cut down on the number of times Pederson goes for it on fourth down (he went for it 27 times in 2022). Only four teams attempted fewer 50-plus yard field goals than the Jaguars in 2022 (Tennessee, San Francisco and Carolina attempted two and the Chargers attempted one).
“There is a comfort level, obviously, as a decision maker to put a kicker out there. When you look at some of the top kickers around the league when you cross the 50, the 45, 40, I mean you're in field goal range,” Pederson said. “So obviously we're going to take a look at this spring and training camp and see how that plays out.”
Which McManus hopes eventually includes multiple playoff games.
“Excited for this new chapter,” he said. “It was a great nine years in Denver and looking forward to this next part of my career.”