The Denver Broncos have officially signed wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a long-term contract. Thomas will play on a five-year deal worth $70 million, with $43.5 million guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Similar to the Cowboys' deal with Dez Bryant, Thomas receives $35 million fully guaranteed upon signing the deal. The rest of the guaranteed money kicks in next spring.
A new deal for Thomas came just before the Wednesday deadline for franchise-tagged players, despite reports earlier in the day that the two sides weren't close to a contract. If he and the Broncos hadn't agreed on a new contract before the deadline, Thomas would have been forced to play the 2015 season on a one-year franchise tender worth $12.823 million and wait instead for the 2016 season to get some long-term security.
Thomas' deal is nearly identical to the deal signed by Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who was in a similar situation as a franchise-tagged player with the deadline approaching. Bryant signed a five-year deal worth $70 million with $45 million guaranteed. The timing and similarity of the deals is interesting, given that the NFL Players Association threatened a collusion charge against both teams regarding the pair of receivers, but the Broncos thoroughly denied the claim.
"The suggestion that our club may have colluded with another team about a negotiation is completely false and without any merit," the team said. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also said there was no collusion between the two teams.
At an average of $14 million per season, Thomas and Bryant are the second-highest paid receivers after Calvin Johnson, who earns $16 million per year in Detroit.
Broncos GM John Elway was excited to get the team's star receiver locked down for the foreseeable future:
Thrilled to reach a long-term deal with Demaryius. He is one of the NFL’s top WRs & will continue to be a big part of the Broncos' success!!— John Elway (@johnelway) July 15, 2015
It's not surprising that the Broncos were able to get a long-term deal done for Thomas given his production in recent seasons. Although Peyton Manning and the Broncos are going to produce a highly-rated passing offense regardless of who is playing receiver, they'd be hard-pressed to plug in another guy for Thomas and still get 111 receptions for 1,619 yards and the 11 touchdowns he totaled last year.
That was Thomas' best season so far in his five-year career, though he had 14 touchdowns to go with 1,430 yards off of 92 receptions in 2013. In five years with the Broncos he's caught 351 passes for 5,317 yards and 41 touchdowns. That's with him only playing in 21 games over his first two seasons and not being the top receiver on the team.
He's Manning's favorite target, so much so that as the offseason got underway there were reports that said Manning would likely restructure his contract to help the Broncos keep him and tight end Julius Thomas. Manning was reportedly annoyed earlier in the summer by the lack of progress made on a long-term deal for his top wide receiver.
Thomas, 27, was a first-round pick in 2010 and already has three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro awards under his belt.
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