INDIANAPOLIS -- John Elway and his staff are still finalizing their strategy for free agency. But the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations/general manager knows that part of it involves having the patience to let the market establish itself -- even with his own players who are about to plunge into the open waters.
That became clear when Elway was asked about the status of wide receiver Eric Decker, the two-time 1,000-yard receiver who will become an unrestricted free agent on March 11. And it's not just about this year's contracts, but the ones in the future, too.
"I think they have to hit the market. And the market sets those (terms)," Elway said. "So, especially when you look at where we are and what we have coming up -- Julius and (Demaryius), both Thomases are up next year. And Wes (Welker) is, too. All that plays into it."
Teams want to have problems like this, because they are usually accompanied by success. That doesn't mean they like it.
"The hard thing is you're doing it with personalities. You're doing it with people," Elway said. "That's the hardest part of it, because we'd love to have Eric back, and I know Eric has made the comment that he'd like to be back, but it's just a matter of he's got to do what's best for Eric, too, and vice versa.
"That's why we go through this process. Then once we get closer to free agency, we'll have a better idea where everything's going."
The Broncos' list of unrestricted free agents is as stellar as any in the league this year: Decker, running back Knowshon Moreno, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, guard Zane Beadles, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, defensive end Shaun Phillips and safety Mike Adams, to name just a few of the 18 who will hit the market.
For all, the evaluation process is ongoing. That includes Moreno, who had a breakout season in 2013.
"When you talk about Knowshon, he had a tremendous year for us," Elway said. "You look at the year (he had) -- he was reliable, he caught the ball, ran the football for us and was also tremendous in pass protection. Knowshon was a big part of what we did this year."
What will help the Broncos is the influx of talented players who will be back on the active roster after finishing the season on injured reserve. Ultimately, the Broncos made the Super Bowl without Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Kevin Vickerson, Rahim Moore, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris Jr., and their returns should bolster a roster that was good enough to defeat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game without them.
"Yeah, it's nice to get all those guys back. It was fun putting the magnets back up on the board and taking them off IR and putting them back on the better," Elway said. "All of a sudden the team looked a lot better after we got those magnets back where they should (be)."
But that doesn't mean the Broncos will stand pat and rely on a return to health as their sole path to improvement.
Whatever the Broncos' moves turn out to be, the goal is clear: create a roster free of obvious voids by draft day.
"With free agency, we're always trying to get ourselves in a position where when we go into the draft, we don't have a glaring weakness where we are reaching for somebody in the draft," Elway said.