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Broncos use franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas

The wide receiver will stay in Denver for at least one more year.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos will ensure keeping Demaryius Thomas in blue and orange for at least one more year after they officially placed the franchise tag on the wide receiver. Thomas has more yards than any other receiver over the past three years, culminating in 2014 when he caught 111 passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns.

By tagging Thomas, the Broncos buy more time to work out a long-term contract. Last year, Thomas finished his rookie deal making $4.7 million. Denver has a litany of free agents to take care of, including Orlando Franklin, Julius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, Nate Irving and Brandon Marshall, meaning general manager John Elway has his work cut out for him.

Elway will try to keep Thomas around beyond this year, though. He released a statement saying, "This is another step in our efforts to extend Demaryius' contract and ensure he remains a Denver Bronco. We will continue working toward a long-term agreement with Demaryius, who is a very important part of our team."

The "nonexclusive" tag was used for Thomas, which means other teams will have the opportunity to negotiate with the receiver. However, any deal struck with the three-time Pro Bowler can be matched by the Broncos. If Denver decided not the match the offer, it would receive two first-round draft picks from the signing team as compensation.

Thomas, 27, will be vying to become one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald earned the two largest contracts at the position, each getting $113 million with the average annual value at $16 million for both. The main difference in the two contracts is guaranteed money, with Johnson getting $48.75 million and Fitzgerald $27 million. Those deals are far and away the largest in league history at the position The next highest number is $67.8 million for Andre Johnson, who makes $9.68 million on average.

The cap number for receivers is expected to be about $12.8 million, meaning Thomas would play in 2015 under a one-year deal for that amount if a long-term contract isn't agreed upon by the two sides.