On Tuesday you’ll be able to find – either digitally or in print – the newest edition of Mile High Sports Magazine.

And guess who’s on the cover?

T.J. Ward.

There he is, sitting right alongside Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Darian Stewart – a.k.a. the No Fly Zone. Five of the happiest, most accommodating professional athletes I’ve ever met. Make no mistake, the photo was taken with the idea that the No Fly Zone would be intact when the magazine came out. Back on June 5, when our cover was constructed inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse, the idea that this particular group would be short one soldier come September was practically unthinkable. Ward was one of the key components to the Broncos’ most reliable unit.

If ever there was a “safe” bet, this was it.

With any magazine, who goes on the cover is a decision not to be taken lightly. The biggest story heading into Broncos season this fall wasn’t the No Fly Zone. Not even close. The biggest story – the thing we all talked about until we were blue in the face – was who was going to be the starting quarterback. But the trick, at least in my world, is trying to make sure that the top story in Mile High Sports Magazine – especially the cover – is relevant when it hits the stands. As such, putting Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch (or both) on the cover, would have come with some predictable risks. Even the Broncos PR staff helps us with that. If and when we’ve got a cover concept that involves any degree of “unknown,” they’ll often steer us away.

Take last summer, for example. We wanted to photograph Lynch, Siemian and Mark Sanchez. All three had a shot at making the roster, and heading into camp, that was the story. The photo never happened. Back when we would have taken it, we’d have bet on Sanchez being the starter, Lynch being the backup, and Siemian being a practice squad guy. And we’d have been dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why that idea never came to fruition. I’m not saying anyone “knew” for sure, but it turns out somebody knew something we didn’t. We ultimately went with this cover, and the concept holds together nicely to this very day. It says all you need to know about the Broncos quarterback situation still.

But everyone was blindsided by the releasing of T.J. Ward – including and especially Ward himself.

“I mean, you could have let me know what was going on,” Ward said Monday in Tampa. “You had a full offseason. I know it’s a business, but when you have good employees you’re supposed to treat your employees a certain way. I think they just handled it completely unprofessional. That’s just my opinion.”

Had his dismissal been in the works over the summer, the cover that adorns this month’s issue – a creation that has since been dubbed “The Two Million Dollar Cover” (after Talib’s now famous estimate of what the collective wardrobe of all five players was worth) would have likely never happened. If anyone at Dove Valley had an inclining that it was going to go down that way, something tells me we wouldn’t have been allowed to shoot all five players (just a hunch).

Turns out, the Two Million Dollar Cover was less valuable than the $4.5 million the Broncos saved in cap space by sending Ward packing.

These are the times I don’t like sports, at least the professional variety. This is when the “adult” side of the business makes no sense to the kid in me.

When those five guys gathered back in June for our cover shoot, I’ve never seen a more “together” group. This was the definition of team, exactly what you want teammates to look like. Try explaining to a little kid wearing a Broncos No. 43 jersey why it makes sense to let go of Ward. Heck, try explaining it to Chris Harris. That’s not a knock on his replacement, Justin Simmons, or even a lack of understanding with regard to the financial implications; it’s not. It’s just that it feels like a player like Ward makes any team better, plain and simple.

So when a team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago lets go of a player who would more than likely make them better this season, it’s tough for anyone to understand. It’s not like there’s an immediate benefit coming back in return (like a trade for another player who might help, for example).

If I’m an owner, or even someone like John Elway, I’d rather have another Super Bowl ring than $4.5 million. But what if getting that Super Bowl ring looks like a long shot (that’s what Westgate Las Vegas Superbook thinks, at 40-to-1 odds that Denver wins the Super Bowl). Maybe I’d just as soon keep that $4.5 million.

Isn’t that really what the T.J. Ward move says? That the Broncos themselves don’t believe they’ve got a true shot to win the Super Bowl? No one on the team or within the organization would ever say that out loud – nor should they (hey, anything can happen) – but I can’t help but be a little disheartened.

Putting Ward, along with his No Fly Zone buddies, on our September cover (shot in June and printed on Aug. 31) seemed like a great idea to me.

Turns out not much is safe in professional sports. That’s the way it goes I guess; we all root for laundry anyway, right? Here’s to flying the friendly skies all the way to Tampa, T.J. Ward. With all due respect to Simmons, you will be missed.

Here’s hoping this month’s cover – while already out of date – provides a lasting impression of one of the greatest defensive secondaries in Denver Broncos history.