As we prepare to head into the heat of the NFL offseason, Broncos Country is well aware of the predicament their Super Bowl champions are in. With eight starters set to hit free agency (plus Brock Osweiler) Denver is facing an uphill battle.

That battle, though, would be made a whole lot easier if John Elway, the Broncos’ czar of football operations, had a little extra cash to play around with. Right now, the orange and blue are set to hit the open market with just under $12 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, but just like any thrifty shopper, the best way to grow your spending money is to cut your expenses somewhere else.

In Denver’s case, I’m referring to the trio of Peyton Manning, Ryan Clady and DeMarcus Ware.

I’ve covered this before, but if the Broncos parted ways with all three former pro bowlers, they’d clear up almost an additional $40 million in cap space; that might be enough room for Von Miller, Malik Jackson and Brock Osweiler — close, at least. But is it worth it?

Well, in Manning’s case, yeah. There’s no way you can pay a 40-year-old quarterback coming off the worst season of his career $10 million, let alone the $21.5 million he’s expected to make in 2016. And the same goes for Ryan Clady, who’s missed 18 games in the last three seasons; coming off a serious knee injury, Clady is not worth $10.1 million.

Now, Denver could work to restructure their contracts, but if Elway is ready to move on to the next generation of Broncos football, maybe it makes the most sense to just part ways entirely.

The real question, the tough decision, is what to do with Ware.

On one hand, he’s coming off two other-worldly performances in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl, he’s the heart and soul of the defense and he’s a bonafide superstar. On the other, he’s 33 years old, injury prone and probably not worth the $11.7 million due to him next year. Not to mention, Elway already drafted his replacement in Shane Ray last offseason, and Shaquil Barrett could probably benefit from some more snaps, too.

I guess, with that kind of money on the line, it comes down to whether you want to pay Malik Jackson or DeMarcus Ware, and I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

But let’s say Elway does choose in favor of Ware. What happens if Ware’s back, which bothered him for much of the season, gets worse in 2016, causing him to miss significant time and leading to a natural decline in ability? Would Broncos Country regret letting the rising Jackson walk in favor of the mentorship and leadership of Ware?

I don’t know.

What I can tell you, though, is that losing Ware would impact this team; he means too much to these men off the field.

Just look at this quote from Von Miller’s The Players’ Tribune piece from Thursday:

Let me tell you what DeMarcus means to me.

You know why I wear all-white gloves with the white wrist tape? DeMarcus Ware.

You know why I have the towel hanging out the back of my pants? DeMarcus Ware.

You know why my stance looks like DeMarcus Ware? DeMarcus Ware.

In high school, I wanted to be DeMarcus Ware. Now I get to line up alongside him.

DeMarcus Ware is much more than a teammate to many of these Broncos players; he’s a brother, their rock.

Even in the offseason, when he could be back relaxing in his home for the first time in months, here he is on a bro-trip with Demaryius Thomas to Cape Town, South Africa. Now, I can’t pretend to know what spurred this getaway, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it stemmed from Ware’s desire to pull DT away from the distractions and criticisms his 2015 season was littered with.

As fans, we look at the on-field performance and that’s it, but DT has been through a lot in these last few months, and I truly believe it affected him as a player. And while you can say that nothing else matters but football, that’s just not true, especially in DT’s case.

Ware has already proven that he can get Von Miller’s mind back on football; if he can do the same with DT, he’ll be well worth the money he’s making.

And that’s why you leave well enough alone. Yeah, it’d be nice if Ware agreed to a restructuring of his contract, but even if he doesn’t, I think you have to keep him in town. It’s because of guys like him that this Denver Broncos team was able to become resilient enough to take home a Lombardi Trophy.

He may not be his Hall-of-Fame self 16 games a season, but DeMarcus Ware is an essential member of the Denver defense. That shouldn’t change until he says so.