3:01pm: With the deadline for franchised players to sign multiyear deals having passed, Albert Breer of the NFL Network confirms (via Twitter) that Thomas’ contract has been finalized and filed
2:51pm: According to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link), $35MM of Thomas’ $43.5MM overall guarantee is fully guaranteed at the time of signing.
2:38pm: Shortly after the Cowboys and Dez Bryant agreed to a five-year, $70MM contract, the Broncos and Demaryius Thomas have done the same, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Thomas’ five-year, $70MM pact will feature $43.5MM in guarantees, just slightly less than Bryant’s $45MM.
Heading into the day, a multiyear extension hadn’t been considered likely for Thomas, who was reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of Calvin Johnson‘s mega-deal with the Lions — the Broncos appeared unwilling to budge from a figure much lower than that, in the ballpark of $13MM annually. However, this afternoon’s deadline – along with Bryant’s deal – got the two sides back to the negotiating table, and they got something done with less than a half-hour to go.
This morning, we learned that Thomas was planning to skip the Broncos’ training camp and preseason if he didn’t get a long-term extension today, and it’s possible that threat helped move the team to action. After all, with a new head coach and offensive coordinator in place, it would have set the Broncos back somewhat to be without their No. 1 wideout until September. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), the club upped its offer today.
It’s also possible that the threat of a collusion complaint from the NFL Player’s Association played a part, though neither the Broncos nor the Cowboys appeared to take that investigation too seriously. Now that Bryant and Thomas have been locked up, the NFLPA will likely stand down, but amidst the union’s claims of collusion, it’s interesting to note that the two wideouts appear to have landed virtually identical contracts.
Like Bryant, Thomas has been one of the league’s top receivers over the last several seasons, piling up 297 receptions and three consecutive Pro Bowl nods since becoming a full-time starter for the Broncos in 2012. During that stretch, Thomas averaged 99 catches, 1,494 yards, and 12 touchdowns per season, establishing new career highs with 111 receptions and 1619 yards in 2014. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has ranked the 27-year-old as a top-five wideout in each of the last three seasons.
Despite his gaudy numbers, Thomas wasn’t a lock to be extended by the Broncos, given the team’s uncertain quarterback situation beyond this season. Although Thomas’ success can’t be attributed entirely to Peyton Manning, there’s a chance his production will eventually drop off without the future Hall-of-Famer, who may not extend his career beyond 2015.
Still, having let standout pass-catchers like Eric Decker and Julius Thomas walk in free agency over the last two years, the Broncos appeared to be prioritizing Demaryius Thomas. By locking him up now, the team avoids having to make a tough decision next year, when both Thomas and Von Miller would be eligible for potential unrestricted free agency. With Thomas under contract, Denver now has the 2016 franchise tag available to use on Miller.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.