With the Denver Broncos' 2014 season officially over, preparations have already begun for the 2015 campaign. Much is still up in the air about the state of the Denver Broncos next season, yet some pieces have already fallen into place. For example, former head coach John Fox parted ways with the team after their playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Fox, who is now the Chicago Bears head coach, was quickly replaced by Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Kubiak, who is good buddies with and a former teammate of Denver general manager John Elway, brings years of coaching experience to Denver and, unlike Fox, is an offensive-minded coach.
Another coaching staff change that took place in Denver over the past few weeks was the departure of offensive coordinator Adam Gase. To fill his void at OC, Elway and Kubiak brought in Rick Dennison, who has worked with Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively.
With a new-look offense that might get further altered depending on whether quarterback Peyton Manning retires or not, retaining star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is an absolute priority for the Broncos. Thomas is not the only player on Denver's roster who is entering free agency, so some tough choices will have to be made about who needs to stay and who must be let go.
Tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Wes Welker and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton are three big-name players who will likely be employed elsewhere next season.
Thomas is a one-dimensional tight end who will be seeking a big deal following the experience of his modest rookie contract. He deserves to get paid, yet he's not worth the money for Denver. Welker and Knighton are veterans—both are over 28 years old—and unless they both take serious pay cuts, Denver cannot afford the injury risk that comes with age.
Demaryius Thomas will likely see offers from many other teams, and there's no question that he's after a "pay me" contract. He will receive No. 1 wide receiver money, and Denver should make it their priority to be the team to give it to him. Keeping him may be a struggle, however, for a variety of reasons.
Whether Thomas stays in Denver or goes elsewhere next season, he'll be learning a new offense either way—and will possibly be working with a new quarterback either way. If the Denver coaching staff had not gotten the face-lift it did, Thomas would have much more incentive to stay. He thrived in Gase's offense, but will the offense that Kubiak and Dennison put together be as friendly to his stat line?
Thomas has joined the ranks of the league's most elite receivers, and losing him would be like the Detroit Lions losing Calvin Johnson or the Pittsburgh Steelers losing Antonio Brown. He brings enormous size, freakish athleticism and is a virtual lock for 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ideally, Denver will pay up and keep both Demaryius Thomas and offensive guard Orlando Franklin, leaving the biggest question mark in their offense the quarterback position. (And that's a big question mark.)