INDIANAPOLIS -- Never mind the prospects who are getting poked, prodded, weighed, measured, grilled and run through the athletic-drill ringer.
The NFL combine has brought clarity to the future of several Broncos mainstays.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders? Both receivers are staying in Denver.
“The plan is to have them back,’’ said Broncos general manager John Elway.
Said head coach Vance Joseph: “Watching those guys on a daily basis, watching them work, and watching them in games go uncovered the way they tend to do, I don’t see those guys not being a Bronco.''
Defensive end Derek Wolfe is coming back.
“That is another one we plan on going forward with,’’ Elway said.
Backup, first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch?
"Oh yeah,’’ Elway said. “Paxton will be back and we're going to continue to work with Paxton and continue to develop him. We knew it was going to take a little bit of time with Paxton. … But we still have high expectations for Paxton.’’
But when asked about cornerback Aqib Talib and running back C.J. Anderson, the Broncos bosses were considerably less emphatic about their return.
“We’ll see,’’ Elway said. “We’ll look at that. Like I said, we’re looking at every option that we can and where our football team is. I’m not saying they’ll be back for sure, but I’m not going to say they are gone. We’re exploring a lot of options on other players, too. That is what you do this time of year. It’s not just isolated to those two players.”
Talib is scheduled to make $11 million this season. That salary is not guaranteed. Anderson is scheduled to make $4.5 million. No guarantee.
Saving $15.5 million is one reason those two players are vulnerable. Having young talent behind them is another.
Talib has been backed up the past four years by Bradley Roby, whose salary jumps from $1.02 million in 2017 to $8.526 million this year.
Anderson, who is coming off a 1,007-yard rushing season, has been backed up by Devontae Booker, who will make a relative modest $630,000 in 2018, and De’Angelo Henderson, who will make a more affordable $555,000.
And this year’s draft is considered deep in running backs.
Given all these factors, the surprise would be if Talib and Anderson do return.
“There is a business side of the NFL,’’ Joseph said. “So, you also have to consider that. Sometimes for your football team to get better and grow, you have to part ways with people you don’t want to part ways with. That’s just part of the business.’’
There are no young players behind Thomas and Sanders who are ready to assume a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver role in the NFL. The Broncos need another Derek Wolfe up front, not one less.
Talib and Anderson are still very good players. But in the business side of the NFL, there is no greater opponent to a proven, well-paid player than a younger, less-proven but less-paid backup.