ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Perhaps it was part warning shot across the bow of the locker room as well as the team's scouting and personnel departments or simply a promise about living with what happened to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
"The bottom line is we're going to work as hard as we worked this year, if not harder," Elway said. "And continue to do that with the mindset that we want to be world champions and we're going to do everything we can to get there."
And as Elway has said, the decisions get tougher with the wins -- the Broncos are 26-6 over the last two regular seasons. With that, here's an early look at what's to come for the Broncos:
First, the lists ...
Unrestricted free agents (2013 salary cap figures in parentheses): RB Knowshon Moreno ($3.287 million), LB Wesley Woodyard ($3.25 million), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($2.9 million), DE Robert Ayers ($2.241 million), S Mike Adams ($2 million), LB Paris Lenon ($1.54 million), WR Eric Decker ($1.506 million), CB Quentin Jammer ($1.5 million), DE Shaun Phillips ($1.4 million), LB Stewart Bradley ($1.2 million), G Zane Beadles ($1.06 million), C Dan Koppen ($1.015 million), WR Andre Caldwell ($1 million), T Winston Justice ($991,176), C Steve Vallos ($555,000), S Michael Huff ($296,470).
Restricted free agents, so Broncos have right to match other offers (2013 salary cap charges): CB Tony Carter ($715,000), CB Chris Harris Jr. ($555,668), DT Mitch Unrein ($555,000), LB Brandon Marshall ($28,235).
Position to watch: The Broncos have six defensive backs who are slated to be either unrestricted or restricted free agents. Rodgers-Cromartie, whose 2014 portion of his contract will void Friday, will turn 28 in early April so he will likely have demand elsewhere.
Harris will need the entire offseason to recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL, so the Broncos could simply tender him a one-year offer with enough compensation required to keep away the suitors if they want to gauge his recovery before diving in long term.
But overall, cornerback Champ Bailey will also turn 36 in June and played in just five games this past season. The Broncos will have to look long and hard for help at this position since their entire rotation is in flux. Rodgers-Cromartie started 13 games in the regular season, Adams played in 16 and started seven, Harris started 15, Jammer played in 11 games, Huff played in seven after signing in November and Carter played in 12.
That's a lot of snaps at one position on the bargaining table.
Cap figures to watch: Bailey's $10 million hit for '14 leads the way. It's likely the Broncos will approach him about some kind of relief and if Bailey's willing the two sides could work something out. If not, the Broncos are not in position to bring him back at that number.
"Most people in this locker room have to deal with something coming up," Bailey said this week. "You deal with it when you can. I don't control anything -- I'm under contract for another year, so I'm not concerned with what's going on, really. Those decisions are not made by me. I'll deal with that when it comes."
Guard Chris Kuper, who has continued to battle his way back from multiple ankle surgeries as well as a major infection, took a pay cut last August. He has a $5.19 million cap figure for '14. Tight end Joel Dreessen has a $3.166 million cap figure and was a game-day inactive for the Broncos' three postseason games.
The you-can't-keep-everybody department: Woodyard -- who has been a captain in all six of his seasons with the team -- Moreno, Ayers, Decker and Beadles have been just the kind of home-grown players Elway wants as the Broncos move forward.
But they are not all going to get their best offers from the Broncos. Decker, in particular, fits the profile of an offensive players who will do far better in the open market than he would with the Broncos. Offensive starters at skill positions, especially those who work in the league's marquee offenses, are considered splash signings to many teams. So, those players often get some of the big money tossed around early in free agency.
Moreno fits what the Broncos do in all facets of his game, but he's had two knee surgeries, including an ACL repair. Ayers has been a rotation player over the last two seasons. And while offensive linemen are considered by many general managers to be the safest bets in free agency, the Broncos' feelings on Beadles will be seen in the kind offer they extend.
Feel the draft: The Broncos' top spots should be cornerback, defensive line and the middle of the offensive line. They will have to consider wide receivers as well if Decker moves on and given they lost their last draft pick at the position -- Tavarres King -- when he was claimed off waivers by Carolina in October as the Broncos tried to get him back on to the practice squad.
Given Lenon and Woodyard are free agents and Von Miller coming back from ACL surgery, linebacker will need at least a second-day look as well.
Who's got the most to gain in '14: Miller, by far. He's been suspended for six games already. Another one would cost him a year and he remains in Stage 3 of the league's drug program for the remainder of his career.
He returned from his suspension a little heavier and didn't play with nearly the same explosiveness he had in 2013, according to a wide sampling of pro personnel scouts who have evaluated him. And he's coming back from ACL surgery.
That's a lot for a guy set to be an unrestricted free agent following the '14 season and it means there are several questions swirling around a guy who once looked like a foundation player for the team.
And offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who will be in the last year of his current contract in '14, was a red-hot head coaching candidate this season and he figures to remain at the front of the line with Manning's return.
Other matters that need attention: Head coach John Fox will be in last year of his deal in '14, a situation more coaches do not like to be in. Elway has said he would sit down with Fox after the season was over. In Fox's favor are three consecutive division titles, but he will have to answer for the Super Bowl meltdown.
Also, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's contract is set to expire. He likes it in Denver. The Broncos like his work, especially as the interim head coach this season season, so as it stands something would get done unless an unexpected bump in the road appears.
Plan for the future: What the Broncos do, or don't do, in free agency this time around could be affected by the fact Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Orlando Franklin are all slated to be unrestricted free agents after the 2014 season.
Or as Elway put it; "My job is to stay two steps ahead."