Broncos Should Be Patient in Extension Talks with TE Julius Thomas

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 17, 2014

The Denver Broncos rode a record-setting offense all the way to a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII last year, thanks in no small part to the exploits of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas.

Now, with the Thomas twins (they aren't really related) entering the last year of their rookie contracts, the Broncos have entered into talks that will keep both pass-catchers in the Mile High City for years to come.

With that said, where "Orange Julius" is concerned, patience is most definitely a virtue for team president John Elway and the Broncos.

As Elway told Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, the Broncos have made offers to both players, and the two (or in this case three) sides will continue to talk through the first couple of weeks of training camp:

Nothing is going to get done before camp, but we'll keep talking to them in camp. I'm never going to go into the season, but the first couple of weeks, we can continue to talk about it. After the second week of the preseason, we'll want to have had something done, one way or another.

Where Demaryius Thomas is concerned, the best plan of action is pretty obvious. Sign him. Now.

The fifth-year wideout has now topped 1,400 receiving yards and reeled in double-digit touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, finishing as a top-five wide receiver in the rankings at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) both years.

One of those big years came with perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history throwing him the ball. The other?

Not so much.

Point being, Demaryius Thomas has earned every bit of that new deal he's going to get.

But can we really say the same about Julius Thomas?

Mind you, this isn't to take anything away from Thomas as a player, and you certainly can't take anything away from the season he had last year.

Julius Thomas 2013

No tight end in the AFC had more touchdown catches last year than Thomas' 12. He also ranked among the top 10 tight ends in yardage, receptions, and yards per catch among tight ends with more than 50 grabs.

However, while those numbers are great, they aren't exactly staggering, especially in light of the Broncos' historic offensive output last season.

Also, Thomas managed only a 25th-place ranking at his position according to Pro Football Focus in 2013, largely because Thomas graded as the second-worst run-blocking tight end in the NFL

There's also the matter of what Thomas had accomplished in his NFL career prior to last season.

That would be one catch for five yards in two years.

Paying a player big money coming off one huge season already isn't the best of ideas. Doing so in an inflated market for tight ends just makes it more so.

And make no mistake, in light of the four-year, $40 million deal Jimmy Graham just signed with the New Orleans Saints, the market for tight ends is as good as it's ever been from a player's perspective.

Both are concerns Elway himself expressed to Jones:

Even though Julius had a tremendous year for us, he's only (played) 23 games. We want Julius to be a Bronco for a long time and we think he has tremendous upside, but he's not at that level.

There's just no earthly reason for the Broncos to be in a rush to sign Julius Thomas unless it's to a very team-friendly deal.

In fact, unless Thomas fears a 2014 faceplant (either due to injury or performance), he shouldn't be in any big hurry to sign a long-term deal, either. If the 26-year-old comes out, posts similar numbers to last year and helps key another deep playoff run, Elway might start rethinking which level exactly Thomas is on.

The Broncos, on the other hand, would be hedging their bet against a backslide from Thomas by taking things slow. If Thomas backs up 2013, the team can either lock him up next year or use the franchise tag to keep Thomas in the fold.

Sure, Graham's deal will bump the tag number higher than this year's $7.035 million, but it will not be so high as to be in any way cost-prohibitive.

Now, it may well be that Thomas decides a bird in the hand is worth is worth two in the bush, and that less money now is better than risking much less money later were he to get hurt or falter.

If that's the case? By all means, get it done.

Otherwise, the best strategy Elway and the Broncos can employ with Julius Thomas is to hurry up and wait.


Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.


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