1:17pm: The Broncos have confirmed that Thomas received the non-exclusive tag, and passed along a statement from John Elway indicating that the team continues to work toward a long-term with the wideout (Twitter links). If no multiyear pact is reached, Thomas’ one-year franchise salary for 2015 will be $12.823MM.
MONDAY, 12:53pm: Thomas has officially been tagged by the Broncos, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
SUNDAY, 6:33pm: Barring any unforeseen contract agreement, the Broncos will place the franchise tag on receiver Demaryius Thomas tomorrow, reports Mike Klis of the Denver Post. The tag will guarantee Thomas approximately $12.797MM for the 2015 season.
Per Klis, the Broncos will use the more popular non-exclusive franchise tag, which will allow Thomas to have talks with other teams but will entitle Denver to two first-round picks if they decide to not match an offer sheet. As Klis notes, this is highly unlikely to happen, so Thomas is almost certainly a lock to play for the Broncos in 2015.
Denver was widely expected to use the tag, and speaking at the combine earlier this month, Broncos general manager John Elway confirmed that the club would utilize the tag on Thomas if a long-term contract could not be worked out. Elway said the the team would still like to work out an extension with Thomas, and now the two sides will have until July 15 to negotiate a multi-year agreement.
The 27-year-old Thomas was set to be a part of a loaded free agent receiver crop, which includes Dez Bryant (who is also expected to be tagged tomorrow), Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, and Torrey Smith. Thomas, who finished last season with 111 receptions for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns, would have been in line for a contract averaging close to $14MM per season. A long-term deal with the Broncos should come close to that figure, but with Denver now holding the leverage, the AAV expectations might be tempered.
Thomas has shown some willingness to take a hometown discount, indicating that he enjoys playing with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. But Manning, at age 38, could be entering his final season in the NFL, and it’s unclear if Thomas would show the same inclination to stay in Denver were Manning retired.
After accounting for the franchise tag, the Broncos are projected to have about $16.5MM of cap space to work with as free agency approaches. The club and Manning are reportedly discussing some sort of contract restructure, so Denver could conceivably carve out a little extra financial room. As Klis reported earlier today, the Broncos are expected to be active participants in free agency, targeting help at offensive line, tight end, and safety, but they aren’t expected to retain some of their own free agents, such as Julius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, and Orlando Franklin.
Both Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant were long believed to contenders for the franchise tag, and now other clubs will have until tomorrow to decide whether to apply their own tag. Justin Houston (Chiefs) and Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) are each expected to be tagged by their respective teams, while Devin McCourty (Patriots) and Jerry Hughes (Bills) are also candidates for the tag. Check out PFR’s Luke Adams’ recap of all the franchise tag candidates here.