Demaryius Thomas

West Notes: Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers

The Broncos have fallen quite a ways from their Super Bowl 50 win about two years ago. The team’s biggest question mark is obviously at quarterback, but there are a number of questions that John Elway and company will have to answer over the course of the offseason, explains Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Jhabvala mentions that the Broncos wide receiver position could really change over the next few months depending on how the front office approaches some of the playmakers that could enter free agency. The big name she mentions is Demaryius Thomas who could test the open market should Denver decline his $4MM option. He’s controllable for non-guaranteed salaries for the next two seasons, but the team could save some money or re-negotiate a new contract before a decision has to be made about that option. In addition to Thomas, Cody Latimer is an unrestricted free agent, Bennie Fowler is a restricted free agent and Emmanuel Sanders is a controllable veteran that could hit the trade block if the team rather invest in Thomas long-term.

Jhabvala also focuses on veteran cornerback Aqib Talib. She notes how he’ll turn 32 in February and is set to make $11MM in 2018. Although, the Broncos would only be responsible for $1MM if he were to be released. With Chris Harris and Bradley Roby under contract as well, it’s unlikely the team would hold onto all three for next season.

The article finally keys in on Denver’s starting running back, C.J. Anderson. Anderson is paid well for his position as he’ll make $4.4MM next season. However, his last two years of his original four-year deal that he signed in 2016 are non-guaranteed, so there is definitely significant money to be saved should the team move onto the likes of Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson or potentially a another running back that they draft in April.

Here’s more from the NFL’s West divisions:

  • Denver has to deal with an off-the-field problem at receiver as well. Their 2017 third-round draft pick, Carlos Henderson, was arrested this afternoon for possession of marijuana, per Brad Cesak of NBC6News (Twitter link). The 23-year-old was placed on the injured reserve with a thumb injury in the preseason, but could face league discipline for his most recent incident. This would be his first offense, but it’s not encouraging for a Broncos team potentially looking for steady contributors on that side of the ball.
  • The news that Pete Carroll would be replacing Darrell Bevell with Brian Schottenheimer as Seattle’s next offensive coordinator was met with some skepticism across the football world. However, Seahawks backup quarterback Austin Davis thinks that the change will bring some positivity to the team’s offense in 2018, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Schottenheimer coached Davis for three seasons while the two were in St. Louis. “We were very creative in St. Louis,” Davis told 710 ESPN Seattle. “We threw a lot of things at the defense, whether it was drop-back, whether it was play-action, whether it was quarterback movement, we had it all. And we were a really good screen team. If there was one thing I could pick out from last year, we couldn’t run screens.” The Seahawks offense was carried by Russell Wilson last season and is in need of a new identity as the team looks to get back into the postseason.
  • 49ers promising rookie linebacker Reuben Foster recently got in trouble with the law for having possession of marijuana, which is likely to effect his paycheck in the years to come. The 2017 first-round pick had about $2.5MM in guaranteed money from 2018-2020, but that will probably be voided because of specific wording in his contract, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Corry explained that Foster had a clause in his contract that if he were to be fined for a violation of the NFL’s drug policy, that money would lose its guaranteed status. The former Alabama defender fell down the draft board a bit last year because of some personality issues, and his immaturity has now clearly cost him in terms of his wallet.
  • Current 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made some extra cash after the Patriots beat the Titans to advance to the AFC Championship, according to Corry in another tweet. Corry reports that Garoppolo received an extra $51k in playoff money for the victory because he was with New England for at least eight games this past regular season.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins

Now that newly-hired Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has begun filling out his staff, a lot of his work will now shift to the personnel side of the franchise. Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Journal-Review previewed many of the decisions that Gruden and the front office will have to work through this offseason.

Gehlken starts by stating that the team is likely to move on from number one wide receiver Michael Crabtree and cornerback Sean Smith. Releasing both players would save money and allow the team to continue to get younger at both positions.

However, a more difficult decision may lie with soon-to-be 32-year-old running back Marshawn Lynch. His salary will jump from $1.35MM to $4MM in 2018. On March 18, he will receive a $1MM roster bonus if he is still on the roster. Lynch’s season was rather inconsistent and running backs that play into their 30’s don’t have the best track record, but it would still be difficult to move on from a talent like Lynch.

“You know, I’ve never met Marshawn Lynch,” Gruden said. “Even as a broadcaster, I asked for Marshawn Lynch in production meetings and I never got to meet him. So I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him. We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did.”

In recent seasons, the Raiders have used free agency as a primary source of getting key players, and while the defense has been arguably the main area of concern, Gehlken passes along that Gruden is also is looking to bring new ideas to the offensive side of the ball.

“We are going to have to look at our roster carefully and see, do we have a fullback? Who is the feature back? Who are the receivers?” Gruden said Tuesday. “A lot of things have to be determined, and I think you have to have an offense that is adaptable, that is versatile and can adjust to a number of certain areas. That is what we need to do. Get through today, lock the doors and get to work.”

Here’s more stories from around the AFC:

  • In news from another AFC West club, the Broncos recently inked former head coach Gary Kubiak to a larger front office role. However, Kubiak could still draw interest from teams looking for a new offensive coordinator, speculates Mike Klis of 9News. Though Klis mostly shuts down that notion because the former Super Bowl winning coach is currently under contract for one more year in Denver, which would force a prospective team to pay up a draft pick in order to pry him away.
  • The Broncos also have a decision to make regarding star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The 30-year-old pass catcher has two years remaining on his current deal should his $4MM option for next season be picked up before the first day of the 2018 league year, reports Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post (Twitter link). However, if the Broncos do decline the option, the final two years would voided and he would become a free agent this offseason. This would also result in $3.1MM of dead money. His salary figures for the next two years are $12.03MM and $17.5MM, respectively. The Broncos need to get younger at the wide receiver position and could be served well letting Thomas walk as he enters the wrong side of his 30’s.
  • The Dolphins offensive line could undergo somewhat of a makeover this offseason and one part of that could come from one of their veterans switching positions. Ted Larsen played in the team’s final eight games at left guard after missing the first half of the season with an injury. However, the 30-year-old would like to switch to right guard in 2018, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Larsen told Jackson “That’s my preference, I played there since 2014.” Jackson notes that fellow starting guard Jesse Davis has shown no reservations about changing roles, so it’s a real possibility that Larsen could have his wish granted in training camp. Although, the writer did add that the team will likely bring in some competition through the draft or free agency. Miami is also not likely to hold onto right tackle Ja’Wuan James for his $9MM 2018 salary figure. Veteran tackle Jermon Bushrod was injured at the end of the year and will be a free agent this offseason as well. This could open up a spot for a prospective high round draft pick with the Dolphins currently holding the 11th overall selection.

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders

The Chiefs did in fact interview a minority candidate for their general manager position — in compliance with the Rooney Rule — but that individual does not wish to be identified, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. As such, the Fritz Pollard Alliance approved of Kansas City’s GM search. “The Chiefs left it up to the individual candidates and their agents whether they wanted their names out there or not,” chairman John Wooten told Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “But I can assure you that they complied. We are comfortable [with their interview process].”

Aside from Brett Veach, only three other contenders’ interviews were public knowledge: Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer, Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden, and Chiefs co-director of player personnel Mike Borgonzi. All personnel interview requests must be made to the league office, meaning the unnamed candidate may work in the media, according to to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who speculates ESPN commentator Louis Riddick — who was linked to the Kansas City vacancy — may have been the interviewee.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Nearing age-30 and coming off a down season (by his standards), Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas finally feels healthy after a hip injury nagged him in 2016, and he feels he can continue playing at a high level even as he enters the twilight of his career. “I got longer than 30 [years],” Thomas told Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com. “I think I’ve got a couple good years [left]. Like I’ve been saying before, this is the best I’ve felt my whole career. I haven’t had the problems I usually have with my hip, because that was one of the things that held me back.” Playing without Peyton Manning for the first time since 2011, Thomas posted 90 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns a season ago.
  • While the full details and structure of Gabe Jackson‘s five-year, $56MM extension with the Raiders aren’t yet know, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter links) has passed along a few particulars of the deal. Oakland, well-known fans of the pay-as-you-go contract structure, employed that technique with Jackson, per Corry, meaning the club did not use a signing bonus. Such a composition should allow the Raiders to easily exit the pact in future years. Jackson’s 2017 cap charge has now increased from roughly $1.945MM to ~$10.648MM, meaning Oakland utilized about $8.7MM of its available cap space.
  • In case you missed it, PFR’s Sam Robinson reviewed the Broncos‘ offseason earlier this week, recapping and analyzing the major signings, departures, trades, and other notable offseason events for Denver.

Major Injury Notes: D. Thomas, Bosa, Ivory

Week 1 is always a time for optimism, but it invariably brings the heartache of injury as well. We will keep track of some of the more significant injuries (or, in some cases, illnesses) right here over the course of the day.

  • Potentially bad news for Broncos fans, courtesy of ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Schefter tweets that star wideout Demaryius Thomas, who suffered a hip injury during Thursday night’s contest against Carolina, underwent an MRI on Friday that will now be sent for a second opinion. There is no word on what the first opinion was.
  • Chargers rookie defensive end Joey Bosa is week-to-week with a Grade 1 strained hamstring, as Schefter tweets. Per Schefter, Bosa has still not practiced in pads, so it could be awhile before he suits up for a regular season game.
  • Jaguars RB Chris Ivory was admitted to the hospital for an undisclosed issue last night, which is why he was deactivated for the team’s game today, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Rapoport also tweets that Ivory will be reevaluated for this issue later this week, and his Week 2 status will hinge on that evaluation. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report adds (via Twitter) that Ivory is undergoing tests and observation in the hospital.
  • Schefter tweets that Dolphins center Mike Pouncey has a small fracture in his hip and is scheduled to undergo a CT scan later this week. Schefter adds that Pouncey could miss another week or two.

Extra Points: Thomas, Mathieu, Browner, Draft

As the Broncos continue to reside up against the salary cap, ESPN.com’s Field Yates points out Demaryius Thomas‘ contract can help the Super Bowl champions clear $9.18MM worth of space.

A clause in the seventh-year wide receiver’s five-year, $70MM deal indicates the Broncos can convert any amount of Thomas’ $13MM 2016 salary into a signing bonus, which would then be spread out over the final four seasons of the pact, Yates reports. The Broncos reducing that salary to the veteran minimum of $760K would free up $9.18MM of cap space this year. The team currently resides in cap peril, with barely $1MM in space before signing Jared Crick on Wednesday, as it attempts to work out a Colin Kaepernick trade.

A Thomas restructure would make sense for the Broncos, who have many high-priced contracts on a cap sheet — although, Ryan Clady and Von Miller‘s respective $10.1 and $14.1MM numbers could well be reduced soon, or removed in Clady’s case — that doesn’t include a high-priced quarterback. Denver currently wants Kaepernick at $7MM for 2016 and ’17, but in 2017, the Broncos are as of now set to have $72.36MM of space — second-most in the league.

They’d have more room for a higher Thomas cap number with contracts like Clady’s and DeMarcus Ware‘s off their balance sheet after the 2016 league year. The Dolphins put a similar clause in Ndamukong Suh‘s deal last year.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • Rehabbing from the torn ACL he sustained in Week 15, Tyrann Mathieu said he would prefer to stay with the Cardinals long-term but acknowledges the negotiation could be tricky, with the versatile defensive back wanting a top-end contract but at a time when he’s coming off a second knee surgery, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com writes in an expansive piece. “They have concerns, which is understandable,” Mathieu told Prisco. “I’ve had two knee surgeries. At the same time, they know who I am as a teammate, as a football player, what I mean to the community and what I can do on the football field. The easiest thing is to pay me as a safety. But if [Patrick Peterson‘s] guy goes down, I have to check Pat’s guy. For me, it’s about me being compensated for everything I do.” In late February, we heard the contract-year safety and the Cardinals were discussing an extension, but nothing has emerged from those talks as of yet.
  • Vernon Davis can earn up to $4.5MM in 2016 if he meets all the incentives of his Washington contract, Mike Jones of the Washington Post reports. Davis’ deal is officially a one-year, $1.66MM pact, but the 12th-year tight end meeting those as-of-now unspecified performance incentives could more than double that.
  • Brandon Browner posted on his Instagram account (via Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com) that he played through a torn MCL last season with the Saints. The recently released cornerback said he tore the ligament in the Saints’ first preseason game. This would help explain a steep decline that resulted in Pro Football Focus bestowing by far its worst full-time cornerback grade on Browner in 2015.
  • Paxton Lynch has a Cowboys visit lined up for Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, and will trek to San Diego for a Chargers meeting soon after. The 49ers also sent multiple representatives to observe the Memphis prospect at his pro day Wednesday, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
  • The Bills received good value on a nontraditional quarterback accord last season and still employ Tyrod Taylor but are taking a wide-ranging glance of this year’s quarterback crop. Bills reps ate dinner with Lynch and plan to visit with Connor Cook, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The team also already met with Christian Hackenberg, per Albert Breer of NFL.com, and has done plenty of research on Jared Goff.
  • Lynch had multiple work-related meals Wednesday, with the Saints meeting with the first-round prospect over lunch, Rapoport tweets. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld will also visit the Saints soon.
  • The Cowboys met with Carson Wentz on Wednesday, according to the team’s website. The North Dakota State prospect also worked extensively with Cowboys coaches at the Senior Bowl.
  • Germain Ifedi has a busy schedule upcoming after performing for teams at Texas A&M’s pro day Wednesday. The Aggies’ latest tackle prospect has a slew of visits and workouts booked, WalterFootball.com’s Tony Pauline reports. Ifedi’s visit itinerary features summits with the Lions, Panthers, Bears and Texans after having already met with the Titans and Dolphins. The Cardinals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Panthers, Texans and Falcons have scheduled workouts with Ifedi.
  • Veteran quarterback Seth Lobato is working out for the Panthers, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).

Zach Links contributed to this report

Anquan Boldin, Percy Harvin Contracts To Void

The contracts for wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin are set to void today, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com details. While Boldin’s deal was technically set to run through the 2018 season, and Harvin’s ran through 2017, language in the contracts called for them to void five days after this year’s Super Bowl, so both players will officially become free agents next month.Anquan Boldin

Both contracts were designed to lessen the charges on the salary cap during the years when Boldin was a Niner and Harvin was a Bill. The void years allowed the 49ers and Bills, respectively, to spread signing bonus money across several years, rather than taking on larger charges in early seasons. San Francisco will carry about $2.73MM in dead money on its cap in 2016 for Boldin, while Buffalo will carry $2MM for Harvin.

In addition to being the date when those two contracts void, Friday also represents the day on which a handful of players will be assured of guaranteed money if they remain on their teams’ rosters. According to Corry, Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will see his $8.5MM base salary for 2017 – which was initially guaranteed for injury only – become fully guaranteed without an offset today.

Two Cardinals players, cornerback Patrick Peterson and quarterback Carson Palmer, also get new guarantees added to their respective deals by remaining on the team’s roster through Friday. Peterson’s $9.75MM base salary for 2016 will become fully guaranteed, while Palmer will get a pair of guarantees — his $7.15MM salary for ’16 and a $6.35MM roster bonus due next month both become fully guaranteed.

The Seahawks will be another team to watch this weekend — Seattle has six players who will be assured of additional guarantees if they remain on the roster through Saturday, including Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFLPA Could Proceed With Collusion Case Against Cowboys, Broncos

Despite previous reports to the contrary, the NFLPA could still pursue their collusion case against the Broncos and Cowboys, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The union is still assessing whether to proceed and has not lifted the notice requiring the teams to preserve any emails, text messages, or other documents that could be relevant to the case.

Evidence of possible collusion between the Cowboys and Broncos reportedly stemmed from a conversation that took place between Dez Bryant and Cowboys COO Stephen Jones. Jones explained to Bryant that the Calvin Johnson contract, which is the most lucrative deal for a wide receiver in the NFL, had no relevance to other receivers because of the unique circumstances surrounding those negotiations. Then, according to Bryant’s account (per the source), Jones told the receiver that he talked to Broncos GM John Elway about the situation. Because the Broncos also had franchise-tagged receiver in Demaryius Thomas, the admission that Jones and Elway communicated about the situation constitutes evidence of collusion.

Florio notes that it will be difficult for Thomas or Bryant to prove that they suffered any real financial loss, given that they both signed five-year, $70MM deals. However, there’s value to all players in exposing collusion, since it could prevent other teams from doing it in the future. As far as we know, the only real evidence the NFLPA has to prove collusion would be the testimony of Bryant. However, a discovery process could unearth a smoking gun or two to benefit their side.

East Notes: Brady, Coughlin, Brooks

We still do not know what will come of the Tom Brady saga, but as we await Roger Goodell‘s final decision on Brady’s suspension, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe provides something of a different perspective on the story. Although it has been widely assumed that Brady would file a lawsuit against the NFL and seek an injunction to stay his suspension unless it is completely wiped out, that decision could be harder than it appears.

After all, although a lawsuit carries little legal risk for Brady–he would not have to share any evidence like text messages or emails, and any sworn statements he makes would likely replicate what he has already said–the on-field ramifications could be a different matter. On the one hand, a lawsuit could delay the process so long that Brady ends up playing the entire 2015 season, but he could also lose in court and be forced to serve the suspension later in the 2015 campaign when the Patriots are fighting for playoff positioning. A loss, of course, would also lend a great deal of validation to Brady’s critics and would cast a pall over his career. Plus, even if he were able to get the suspension lifted, the NFL could appeal and potentially have the suspension restored later in the season.

Brady will have a lot to mull over when Goodell finally hands down his decision, and out of everyone who Brady may consult as he decides how to proceed, it is difficult to find a truly impartial adviser. As Volin writes, “Realistically, only one person can truly decide what’s best for Tom Brady — the man himself. Hopefully, he understands that.”

Now let’s take a look at some more links from the team’s east divisions:

Extra Points: Houston, Thomas, Vikings, Jaguars

Justin Houston signed the richest contract in the history of the Chiefs organization, and his teammates are just as excited for the star pass rusher than he is for himself, writes Chris Bumbaca of the Kansas City Star. Receiver Junior Hemingway and safety Sanders Commings both had great things to say about their teammate’s new deal.

“To have Justin back, man, it’s a good move for us. We can keep pushing, keep doing what we’re doing as a team, keep building, keep grinding, and get going — and try and get this ring,” said Hemingway. “In my eyes, he’s the best. His work ethic, just the person who he is, just being around him, you can feed off of that.”

“That guy deserves every penny. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team — most vocal leader, also leads by example,” said Commings. “He makes it easy on the rest of the defense. He can make a play before it even gets started, getting to their quarterback so fast.”

  • Another AFC West star with a new deal added more headlines at a Broncos press conference, where Demaryius Thomas boldly claimed he will be chasing 2,000 receiving yards, write Troy Renck of the Denver Post. He will take over for Andre Johnson and Steve Smith as the number one option in the Gary Kubiak offense.
  • Kyle Rudolph should return to his place at the top of the Vikings depth chart after missing significant time with injury last season, but the roster behind him is up in the air. Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, fifth-round pick MyCole Pruitt, and the onside kick pariah Brandon Bostick will all battle for spots on the roster. Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune posits that Pruitt is a lock to make the team, meaning last year’s blocking specialist Ellison and receiving specialist Ford will have to fight each other out for what is likely the third and final spot on the roster. Tesfatsion notes that Bostwick would need a strong showing to be in position for that last spot in the team.
  • The Jaguars haven’t been good in what seems like forever, but general manager Dave Caldwell is rebuilding the team from the trenches out. Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com points out that the team has devoted 20.6% of the salary cap to the offensive line, and 27.7% to the defensive line. (There is also an excellent story about wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and his relationship to legendary defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger, who passed away on Friday).

John Elway Discusses Thomas, Dez, Miller

It’s been a busy couple of days for John Elway and the Broncos. The team managed to ignore a number of collusion allegations, and they ultimately re-signed star wideout Demaryius Thomas to a five-year extension.

With the hectic negotiations behind them, Denver’s General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations sat down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss the entire ordeal. We’ve compiled some of the more interesting quotes, which you can find below…

On the timing of negotiations:

“It really started this morning (July 15th). I think that we had met with [Thomas’ agent] Todd France back in end of May—first of June—and both got our offers on the table. At that point in time, there wasn’t any movement until this morning. Once again, things got going this morning. That’s really when we had get a deal done.”

On how the contract will effect the team’s future cap space:

“We prepare for all of those [scenarios]. We look at what the value is to the Broncos, what we can afford, how that fits into the structure and how that fits into our football team. All of those things are going into consideration when we determine what we’re going to pay somebody. We’re well aware of the people that we have coming up. We have a lot of good football players coming up. But with Demaryius—he’s obviously a big part of that and he’s the first part of trying to keep this football team together. I think it was a very fair deal for both sides.”

On whether they referred to the Dez Bryant extension during negotiations:

“We had our numbers set up and picked out. We tried to figure out what we believed was the correct value for us and for the Broncos as well as Demaryius. I think it just took a while to get to that point. Any time you have two special football players at the same position that are going into a franchise year, there is always caution that no one jumps the gun. I think it went as long as it went to be able to make sure that everybody—especially from the agent side—that they were where they needed to be.”

On how the Thomas extension will impact talks with Von Miller:

“We are always planning for the future. Everyone talks about us winning now, and my point is that we want to win from now on. When we go through our budget meetings year in and year out, that is what we look at. We have a three-year plan and a four-year plan, and we try to look into the future to see where we are in order to budget everybody to keep all of our great football players. That is what we want to do—draft well, keep our own and fill in with free agency where we can. D.T. was the first step. We will have a plan for Von next year as well as with other players. We have several other really good football players coming into their last year. We’ll monitor as many as we can. It’s impossible to hold on to everybody in the salary cap era, but we’re going to do the very best we can to keep them all.”