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DeMarcus Ware's potential return to Broncos still 'work in progress'

INDIANAPOLIS – Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph opened his first scouting combine as a head coach Wednesday, and he covered a wide range of topics.

DeMarcus Ware: Ware is set to be an unrestricted free agent next week, will turn 35 years old in late July and is coming off back surgery. Ware has missed 11 games in the last two seasons combined – six with back troubles and five due to a fractured forearm.

Ware has continued to be in the Broncos’ facility much of the offseason to this point as he works with the team’s medical and training staffs in the wake of his surgery. At the Super Bowl last month he said he felt “like a new man’’ and hoped to return to the Broncos.

Joseph said Wednesday that he would like Ware back, but discussions over expectations of playing time and role in the defense were still unfinished.

“I’ve talked to DeMarcus four or five different times,’’ Joseph said. “ ... Lots of things go into it, what he wants to do, how much he wants to play, his role, but that’s a work in progress.’’

Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson: In the expected makeover of the team's offensive line, the Broncos informed Okung they would not pay a $1 million bonus that would engage the final four years of his contract and give Okung $21 million guaranteed. So Okung will be a free agent next week and the Broncos have an opening at left tackle.

And Stephenson, the team's right tackle, has a clause in his contract that would guarantee his $4 million base salary if he’s on the roster on March 13.

Joseph said Wednesday that the Broncos would consider bringing Okung back, just at a lower price than Okung was scheduled to make, and that Stephenson’s future was still open for discussion with executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway.

“[Stephenson] has a guarantee, that’s John’s area, I’m meeting with John again Tuesday on that,’’ Joseph said.

Christian McCaffrey: Denver’s own Heisman Trophy finalist would be in play when the Broncos pick at No. 20 in the first round in April’s draft. McCaffrey’s father, Ed, was a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Broncos during Elway’s Hall of Fame tenure at quarterback and Christian McCaffrey is doing his pre-draft work in suburban Denver.

Joseph said the Broncos had McCaffrey, a Stanford running back, on their list of players they would formally interview Thursday.

Asked if he believed it would be difficult for Christian McCaffrey to potentially play in his hometown for the same team his father played for, Joseph said: “Not at all, he’s a pro’s pro.’’ McCaffrey is generally regarded as either the No. 3 or No. 4 running back on the board by most teams, so whether he can be selected in the first round remains to be seen in what is regarded as a deep class at running back.