John Elway Says Broncos 'Plan' for Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders to Return

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2018

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Demaryius Thomas (88) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
Fred Vuich/Associated Press

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway said Wednesday he is planning for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to return to the team in 2018.

According to Aric DiLalla of the Broncos' official website, Elway said the following about his hopes for the wide receiver tandem:

"The plan is to have them come back and play like they're capable of, too. That's the expectations that I have of them. I think they're still elite wide receivers, and I think it was a down year for both of them, as well as the rest of our football team.

"The expectation is for them to come back and play like they're capable of, because I think they still have a lot of football [left] and [are] still a top receiving pair in the league. [I've] got high expectations, but they've got to come back and play a lot better."

Both Thomas and Sanders are signed through 2019.

The 30-year-old Thomas is set to enter his ninth NFL season, and he is coming off his worst campaign statistically since 2011.

He finished 2017 with 83 receptions for 949 yards and five touchdowns, breaking a five-year streak with at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. Thomas also failed to reach the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2011.

Sanders struggled even more, as the 30-year-old was limited to 12 games due to injury.

Even when Sanders played, he had a difficult time producing consistently because of Denver's unsettled quarterback situation.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout reeled in 47 receptions for 555 yards and two touchdowns, all of which represented his worst numbers since 2012. He had registered at least 75 receptions for 1,000-plus yards in each of the previous three seasons, which included two trips to the Pro Bowl.

The Broncos had a quarterback carousel in 2017, with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch all serving in a starting capacity at some point.

Denver's No. 1 goal this offseason is solving the quarterback position through either free agency or the draft.

Veterans Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater are potential targets on the open market, while Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfieldare possibilities with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

An even slightly improved quarterback situation would go a long way toward helping Thomas and Sanders return to elite status in 2018.