ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —John Elway's Tuesday morning conversation with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was understandably difficult.
How could it not be to let the longest-tenured Bronco know he'd been traded to the Houston Texans?
"It was hard," Elway said Tuesday. "It's always hard. I told him, too, I know it's hard with everything that he was hearing out there. Those types of things are very impossible to keep quiet. Unless something comes to fruition, I usually don't ever talk about them … [because] a lot of times they're just rumors."
The rumors that swirled this week, though, seemed to be rooted in truth, as the Broncos dealt Thomas and a seventh-round pick to the Texans for a fourth- and seventh-round pick.
Elway said he assured Thomas that despite the trade talks that surfaced, the Broncos did their best to "take care of him as well as take care of the Broncos."
The Broncos' President of Football Operations/General Manager had more to share with Thomas, who will likely encounter a strange week as he heads to Houston, only to return to Denver for this weekend's game.
"As I told him, he'll always be a Bronco," Elway said. "It ends his career here, but not his career in the NFL. Look at it as the fact that eventually the Broncos will be reunited with Demaryius."
That Ring of Fame reunion won't be for several years. In the immediate future, the Broncos must turn toward a Thomas-less reality.
As they do so, the future draft picks and the new opportunities for young players should both serve as reassurance.
Elway insisted the Broncos were only going to trade Thomas for fair value, and they thought they got that in the form of a fourth-round pick.
"We were not hell-bent on trading Demaryius," Elway said. "… We felt that it could help us that way as far as the draft next year and that we thought that with the young guys behind him, we could make up for the space that he would leave. We got the value that we thought was fair and that was the most important thing. It's never easy when you trade a guy that's been a household name here for a long time and done a lot of great things not only on the football field but also in the community and was a good man."
Elway spoke Tuesday about a number of young players, including DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick, but it's clear second-round pick Courtland Sutton is the heir apparent to take Thomas' spot.
And to hear Elway talk about the SMU product, it sure sounds like he thinks Sutton is ready to take the next step.
"We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there and play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he's ready to go," Elway said. "He's played well up to this point in time, so hopefully this accelerates his maturity."
Sutton caught three passes for a team-high 78 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday, and he's added two touchdowns on the season.
As the Broncos' third receiver, he took advantage of his limited opportunities. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound player has averaged 19.1 yards per catch.
And now, Sutton should have the chance to add to his reception total. After totaling 37 targets through the first eight weeks — Thomas (56) and Emmanuel Sanders (65) both had more — Sutton should see that number rise.
Elway believes that should help minimize the loss of Thomas to the Texans.
"Hopefully the young guys step up," Elway said. "I think that's what's most important. Personally, I think the young guys are ready to step up behind him and fill that void.
"With that, as well as the value that we got, we just thought it was important to make the move."