ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that the Broncos don’t intend to discuss contract extensions with either Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas until after the season. That has since been confirmed by multiple reporters, including Mike Klis of the Denver Post and Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who indicated that the team hasn’t engaged in talks with either player since August.
The Broncos will do their best to keep all their impact players heading into next season, but the team will only have one franchise tag available, and the salary cap will almost certainly limit Denver’s ability to keep all its key free agents. Besides the Thomases, wideout Wes Welker and – more importantly – cornerback Chris Harris are among the team’s other players eligible to test the open market.
Harris, who is playing this season on a restricted free agent tender, ranked eighth among cornerbacks in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), and has been even better so far this year. Per PFF, quarterbacks throwing into Harris’ coverage have completed 12 of 32 attempts for 101 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception, good for a 33.5 QB rating. The 25-year-old’s outstanding play has made him one of the cornerstones of Denver’s improved defensive unit.
Of course, in Demaryius and Julius Thomas, the Broncos have two players who rank among the best at their respective positions in the NFL. Demaryius has averaged 1,432 receiving yards over the last two seasons, and is on pace to blow past that mark this year, while Julius leads the NFL with nine receiving touchdowns in just six games. Even though Peyton Manning could post big numbers throwing to just about anyone, losing either Thomas would be a significant blow to the Broncos’ passing attack.
What do you think? Which of the Broncos’ top three prospective free agents is the most important for the team to extend? Does the club need to make sure it retains one or both of Manning’s top targets, or is keeping the young, shutdown cornerback the top priority?