ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The elements remain in place for open minds and open phone lines. The Broncos represent a team in transition with young players emerging. As such, Denver will listen when teams call about receiver Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Brandon Marshall.
Thomas, the longest tenured Bronco, faces an uncertain future because of the emergence of Courtland Sutton. No one disputes Thomas' place in Broncos' history -- he should be a Ring of Famer -- but his production is declining for a fourth consecutive season, leaving him no longer matching his salary cap figure. Thomas is due $17.5 million next season, making it unlikely he returns without restructuring, an unlikely scenario since it would block Sutton.
Thomas addressed the trade rumors Monday. I asked him reaction before the media pack arrived.
"Of course I have heard it. I want to be here. But I have been hearing this since OTAs so there must be some truth to it," Thomas told me. "It's a business."
According to multiple sources, teams have inquired about Thomas leading up to the 2 p.m. Oct. 30 trade deadline. Unlike with Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos are willing to consider a move, likely for a later round draft pick. That said, trades are rare, so there's no guarantee a deal is made.
"It doesn't matter to our football team. Our focus is on the Chiefs this Sunday. This time of the year, I watched the games on Sunday, and there's a lot of rumors, a lot of gossip," Joseph said. "There's a lot of content for different shows. Until those things happen, we can't address them or worry about them."
Thomas boasts 33 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns, but has become a possession receiver, averaging a career-low 11.4 yards per reception. He is widely respected in the locker room for his work ethic and willingness to play hurt, including the previous two seasons with a hip issue. Rumors around Thomas are not a surprise. There was some chatter in the preseason that the Patriots might make a play for him before they signed Josh Gordon.
"If someone is interested that means they think I can still play ball if i get traded. But of course I still want to be here. ... Somewhat of it it is true. My time is coming up. But I don't know, " Thomas said. "I will get ready for this week. I will play for the guys in this locker room, for this organization. I can only control what I can control."
When Sutton was drafted, he was viewed as Thomas' replacement. He has done nothing to quiet the noise, catching 14 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. His 17.6 yards per reception ranks ninth in the NFL.
Marshall has ceded snaps to rookie Josey Jewell as he grinds through a sore knee. Marshall is on pace for 73 tackles after netting 106 last season. The Broncos could move on from Marshall after this season, facing roughly a $4 million cap hit. Jewell, who started one game, owns 17 tackles in a limited role. He played seven snaps against Arizona, compared to 62 for Marshall, who was needed in nickel packages.
"It's not a total surprise, I guess. I want to be here. So we will see what happens," Marshall told Denver7.
Cornerback Bradley Roby represents another player teams could inquire about. He hasn't performed as expected in his final year before free agency. The issue is the Broncos' lacking depth at the position. Roby likely would have been benched after the Jets game if the Broncos had options. Roby has improved over the past two weeks, playing his best game in the win over the Arizona Cardinals. Linebacker Shane Ray has also been connected to trade rumors. He's hopeful of playing Sunday after missing the Arizona game with a sprained ankle.
The Broncos are not looking to move cornerback Chris Harris Jr. or Sanders. Harris has been a defensive standout at a reasonable salary. One NFL source called speculation about Harris being available, a "joke." Sanders continues to age like Benjamin Button, ranking seventh in the league in receptions (46) and yards (603).
Phil it up?
The challenge of upsetting the Chiefs remains daunting. The Broncos are 10-point underdogs and could be without running back Royce Freeman (high ankle sprain) and receiver/punt returner DaeSean Hamilton (knee). Phillip Lindsay would accept a bigger role if needed, but believes the Broncos are best when he complements Freeman.
"I am ready for anything. I love football. But I hope my man is back out there so we have that one-two punch," Lindsay told me Saturday.
Teammates enjoyed a laugh at Lindsay's expense for his airball free throw before the Nuggets big win over the Warriors. Lindsay played hoops growing up, and his lefty shot was on point in warmups. Then it wasn't. What changed?
"The ball. It was yellow. It was heavier," he said with a smirk as teammates gave him a hard time.
Hamilton walked through the locker room with a brace on his knee. He told me he suffered a sprain. It's good news given what could have happened, but it makes unlikely he plays this week. ... A fast start is necessary against Kansas City. The Chiefs have scored on their first possession in every game this season, collecting 41 points. The Broncos have 17 points on first possessions. ... The Broncos' schedule begins to demand results. If the Broncos lose at Kansas City falling to 3-5, it makes Houston a near must-win game for a playoff bid. At 4-5 at the bye, the Broncos would be in the postseason mix, and if they can split with Chargers and Steelers, they run into stretch where they can make a move with consecutive games against Cincinnati, San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland.