What we learned: Broncos' dominoes set to fall?

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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Broncos were the last team left standing when the confetti fell in Santa Clara, California, just a few weeks ago. With free agency approaching, they remain at the center of the NFL because they have so many big-name players with uncertain futures.

On Thursday, we learned they are making progress toward keeping their best players. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that there is optimism a deal could get done with Von Miller. That would essentially be like getting two contracts handled. Signing Miller long term, presumably as the NFL's highest paid defender, would open up the franchise tag to possibly keep defensive end Malik Jackson (or Brock Osweiler).

While all of this maneuvering is happening, we're still waiting to find out whether Peyton Manning will retire. Broncos executive vice president John Elway said Manning can take all the time he wants, but we saw Thursday that the NFL is starting to really crank up behind the scenes. It's business season.

Here's what else we learned from the combine on Thursday:

1. One day after the 49ers said they "absolutely" expect Colin Kaepernick to remain on the roster this year, Kaepernick's agents have requested permission to seek a trade, sources informed of the situation told NFL Media's Rand Getlin. It remains to be seen whether the 49ers are open to dealing him or whether any team would even want to take on his contract. It's possible the 49ers have just been posturing in public all week, knowing that this potential trade request was coming.

2. In January, the Houston Chronicle reported the Texans were expected to release Arian Foster before free agency. That is looking less likely after Thursday. General manager Rick Smith said that Foster's salary is not prohibitive. If the Texans release him, it won't be because of money.

Houston has plenty of salary-cap room, so Foster's status is not a pressing concern. With the team expecting Foster to be healthy again in 2016, it sure sounds like he'll get a chance to show his wares in training camp. If he gets cut, it probably won't come until August.

3. Josh Gordon has outlasted three Browns head coaches, and it sounds like he'll play for a fourth. Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown said Thursday that Gordon will have a roster spot waiting for him if he is reinstated by the NFL. While that reinstatement is not expected to happen before free agency, signs point to Gordon being back on the field in 2016. Brown sounded optimistic about Gordon's future.

4. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sounded confident about retaining linebacker Derrick Johnson, currently No. 24 on our Top 99 free agent rankings. Dorsey said the Chiefs aren't about to let good players walk away. They could also use the franchise tag on safety Eric Berry.

NFL Scouting Combine

Dates: Feb. 23-29
TV: NFL Network and NFL Combine Live


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5. Based on comments from Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh over the last few days, big money left tackle Eugene Monroe's days could be numbered with the team. Harbaugh said the team made an "aggressive" offer to impending free agent Kelechi Osemele, who ranks in the top 10 of our free agent rankings. He also said that the team sees Osemele as a left tackle, which is Monroe's position.

Newsome said Wednesday that Monroe is the team's left tackle "right now," which is never a good sign. Rapoport reported Thursday that the Ravens have already offered a contract that would make Osemele the second-highest paid offensive player on the team.

6. Newsome had a big smile on his face when we saw him. Maybe that's because he knew his fellow Alabama alum Trent Richardson was about to join the team.

7. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expects impending free agent Chad Greenway to be back on the team in 2016. He also had some interesting words about Teddy Bridgewater needing to step up his leadership.

"I think there's sometimes where (Teddy) needs to believe that this is my time, my team," Zimmer told Around The NFL.

8. In an annual tradition, Rams general manager Les Snead did a great job convincing reporters that his team was going in the right direction. By the end of the session, Snead literally addressed our Marc Sessler and told him he would win Los Angeles and Sessler over. They just need to find a quarterback.

"Here's what I'm going to say," Snead told Sessler. "It's a team sport. I think it's easier -- the goal should be selling winning and consistently winning and not necessarily an individual player, so I think what you do is, you win during the season. Sales jobs come during the offseason and preseason and they really don't matter."

Said Snead: "I think you don't sell it. You actually just do it. Then it sells itself."

9. One surprising star of the news conference schedule: Packers general manager Ted Thompson. While he doesn't give out a lot of information, he had the room cracking up for much of his 15-minute session with his dry humor.

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