The Denver Broncos are heading into a pretty pivotal offseason under John Elway. Despite winning the Super Bowl only two years ago, the Broncos are a team in transition. We don't know who their quarterback is: prominent scuttlebutt indicates Elway will be interested in Kirk Cousins or perhaps Case Keenum -- despite investing a 2016 first-round pick in Paxton Lynch.
And the receivers, a strength of the offense, might not be around for long either. An offseason preview of the roster and salary-cap space by Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post makes it clear there could be plenty of transition at the skill positions for Denver this offseason, too.
Specifically, with Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos "could look to put him on the trading block," Jhabvala reports. Asked about Sanders and Demaryius Thomas this offseason, Elway was typically cryptic.
"We'll get back and once we get back we'll go through the week and talk about everybody," Elway said at the Senior Bowl.
Sanders inked a contract extension with the Broncos in 2016 that now has two years left on it. He has a $10.9 million cap hit in 2018 and a $12.9 million cap hit in 2019.
We discussed this on the Pick Six Podcast during Monday's episode, but it doesn't feel like the Broncos are going to get some huge haul for Sanders, who will be 31 during the upcoming season. If they're capable of pulling in a fourth-round pick, that's a pretty nice little exchange.
It would also significantly weaken the Broncos' receiving corps, as would the decision not to retain Thomas. Thomas has a $1 million option in his deal, per Jhabvala, that would trigger the final two years of his contract. Those two years have cap hits of $12 million and $17.5 million, whereas passing on the option would result in only a $3.5 million dead-money hit in 2018.
Calling the decision to pass on Thomas' option obvious wouldn't be fair, but freeing up $8.5 million in cap space would be a positive, even if Thomas has quietly been one of the most consistently productive receivers in the NFL during the past half-decade or more.
Long story short: The Broncos could end up losing both Sanders and Thomas this offseason.
Considering that only a few years ago Denver was shattering offensive records with Peyton Manning under center and Thomas, Sanders, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker helping to dominate opposing secondaries, it would be pretty stunning to see the 2018 Broncos featuring none of those guys.
Windows are short in the NFL and players age just like normal humans, but the reality of the situation in Denver could set in very quickly this offseason as those guys and other players (cornerback Aqib Talib) end up being shipped out of town.