The Denver Broncos have made it clear they are hoping to lock up wide receiver Demaryius Thomas before he becomes eligible to enter free agency after next season. Now, the team has reportedly opened extension talks with a five-year offer.
Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver reported the start of negotiations, but there wasn't an immediate update on the overall value of the deal or how receptive Thomas' camp was to the proposal:
Sources tell me the Broncos have made an initial contract offer to Demaryius Thomas. It's a 5-yr deal.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) June 13, 2014
The news doesn't come as much of a surprise. Mike Klis of The Denver Post passed along comments from Broncos general manager John Elway, who admitted that efforts to re-sign the talented wideout along with tight end Julius Thomas were ongoing.
"We've already talked to them to see if we can do something before the beginning of the year," Elway said. "We'd like to get something done before the beginning of camp. We don't want to do anything once training camp starts. They're both in their last years, and we'd like for them to stay and be Broncos for a long time."
Thomas has put up monster numbers since the arrival of Peyton Manning. He's caught at least 90 passes for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Those stats established him as one of the most dynamic outside threats in football.
Patrick Smyth of the team's media relations department notes that only one other player in NFL history has been able to match those numbers by age 26:
Broncos WR @DemaryiusT joins L. Fitzgerald as only players in NFL history w/multiple 90-catch, 1400-yd seasons by age 26.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) May 29, 2014
Clearly, the Georgia Tech product is a perfect fit for what the Broncos are doing on offense under Manning. He's got elite speed and the ability to make defenders miss.
What's the best option for Thomas with one year left?
The legendary quarterback doesn't have the same arm strength he had during his peak seasons in Indianapolis. He relies more on accuracy and a quick release to beat defenses. Thomas has the ability to turn a five-yard completion into a 20-yard gain.
One of the most effective plays the Broncos run is the quick screen to the outside. Manning takes a quick step and fires it out to Thomas. If the first wave of blockers does its job, he's usually off to the races, and very few safeties can chase him down.
Pro Football Focus pointed out that no player gained more yards on screen plays than Thomas last season:
Most yards gained on WR Screens: Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eddie Royal, Golden Tate, A.J. Green— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 12, 2014
Getting him signed is obviously important to the continued success of the offense. But since the Broncos want to eliminate the distraction of contract talks once training camp gets underway, they will have to move quickly over the next month.
Rarely do extensions get hammered out after one or two offers, so the report of the first exchange of terms doesn't mean a deal is imminent. That said, it's something to watch closely as Denver tries to get another big name under contract for the long haul.
If Thomas were to leave, the Broncos would have a very tough time trying to replace him next summer.