ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Salary-cap space, Lombardi trophies and other bargaining items will fade into irrelevance when the Cleveland Browns go on the clock Thursday night.
When the time begins to churn away before the first selection of the 2017 NFL Draft, picks are the only form of currency that will matter.
And John Elway has a lot of chips on his side of the table.
In the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, the Broncos' Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager will have 10 draft selections, including four in the first three rounds.
Just a year removed from a Super Bowl 50 win, the Broncos have a large number of entrenched starters on both offense and defense. From a roster standpoint, that means stability.
From a draft standpoint, that means flexibility.
Ten 2017 draft picks could make the final 53-man roster, but the likelihood of that development seem low. As such, the Broncos have the freedom to deal a few of those 10 picks into higher selections. The quantity of draft picks could fall, while the quality could improve.
Just don't count on movement in the first round of the draft.
"It always gets more expensive the higher you want to go, just depending on where you're starting." Elway said Monday. "Obviously this year we're starting a little bit … higher than we're used to being put. Again, you go back and you listen to all the different options: going up and going back."
In a deep draft, Elway and the Broncos won't feel compelled to trade picks for the sake of trading picks. The 2017 draft may begin Thursday, but the 2018 and 2019 drafts must also be taken into consideration.
"If you trade this [year's pick] for next [year's pick], you don't know what you're getting into next year," Elway said. "Those are always the game that you play in the draft. You never really know."
The unpredictability of the draft also means the Broncos could trade back if a player on the board doesn't fit the value of Denver's pick. Though moving back in the draft may seem counter-intuitive for a team loaded with selections, the Broncos could consider stockpiling selections for the future.
At times, though, moving back in the draft can be just as challenging as moving up.
"It's not always easy to go back," Elway said. "Everyone says, 'Well, just move back. If your guy's not there, go ahead and move back.' Well, you've got to find somebody that wants to move up. It sounds like it's real easy, but until we get going and things start flying around, you never know if you can go up [and] what price it costs you to go up, or if you go back, if there's a trade partner to go back.
"So that's why there's going to be a lot of smoke this week. Until we really get to Thursday and get into it, you don't really know who's serious and who's not."
That doesn't mean the conversations haven't begun between NFL front offices. But for now, there's little finality or clarity related to teams jockeying for position on the draft board.
The NFL's rich (Cleveland and Cincinnati; 11 picks) have plenty of ammunition to make moves ahead of the 2017 season, and the draft order could change quite a bit before the end of the first round Thursday night.
"Everybody's talking about moving up and down right now, so it's that time," Elway said. "In the next couple days, it'll continue to go and you find out who wants to do what. Until we get to draft day, you never know really how serious anybody is."
Answers are coming soon enough.