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With Emmanuel Sanders traded, what Bronco will be the next to go?

(Photo by Joe Amon / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The rebuilding phase has officially begun for the Broncos. On Tuesday, the team made a move that signaled they were transitioning from “win now” mode to thinking about the future.

Sanders is in the final year of his contract, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’ll turn 33 in March and is coming off of an Achilles injury that ended his 2018 season, so there have long been questions about the Broncos desire to have him on the roster in 2020 and beyond.

The conventional wisdom held that Denver didn’t offer him an extension prior to this season because they were waiting to see what direction the franchise was heading. If they had a good year, they’d try to retain Sanders and continue to build upon a winning formula. If they didn’t, they’d part ways and go a different, most likely younger, direction.

At 2-5, coming off of an embarrassing 30-6 loss to the Chiefs, the latter is clearly how the Broncos season is trending. Given that it’s more and more likely that Sanders won’t be a part of the team’s future, it made sense to get something of value in return for his services; the pair of picks offered by the 49ers in exchange for the wideout and another draft choice accomplished that goal.

Some may be disappointed that Denver wasn’t able to match the second-round pick that Atlanta received from New England for Mohamed Sanu. After all, they have very similar statistics this season (30-367-2 for Sanders, 33-313-1 for Sanu). But there were differences in the two players that made the Falcons wideout more attractive.

For one, Sanu isn’t coming off of a major injury. He’s also cheaper, as Sanders have a salary of a little more than $6 million this season, while Sanu is earning less that $4 million. And while the former Bronco will be a free agent after the season, the new Patriot still is under contract for 2020.

So all in all, it seems like a fair deal for the Broncos. And the 49ers get a much-needed veteran wideout with playoff experience, something that will help them as they try to turn a 6-0 start into bigger and better things.

Now that the rebuilding process has begun, what else could John Elway have up his sleeve? There is no shortage of rumors about what Broncos could be on the market.

On Monday, the Texans sent the Raiders a third-round pick in 2020 for Gareon Conley. That helps set the market for cornerbacks, although Conley and Harris are vastly different players. Harris is much more accomplished, but Conley is only 24 years old, earns significantly less money and is under contract for 2020. But a contending team desperate for help in the secondary might be willing to give up a first- or second-round pick for Harris.

As for Wolfe, it’s tough to determine his value on the open market. While a popular player in Denver, the eighth-year pro doesn’t have a lot of accolades to his name. He’s been a part of some very good defenses during his tenure with the Broncos, but has always been a role player while others were the stars. He’s most likely going to bring a day three draft choice (fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick) in a trade.

There has been buzz about Von Miller potentially being on the block, but the MVP of Super Bowl 50 would be trickier to deal. For one, he’s still an elite player, under contract through 2021 on a team option each of the next two seasons. Three years makes it viable for the Broncos to have him on the roster once their rebuilding project is ready to produce positive results. In addition, Miller’s $25.125 million cap hit this season makes it tough for most teams to absorb what’s left to be paid this season.

What will be the next domino to fall? It’s hard to know for sure, but it seems very likely that another key member of the Broncos last championship team will say goodbye to the Mile High City in the next seven days.