Could the Broncos Trade WR Demaryius Thomas?


With the Denver Broncos using the franchise tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas by Monday’s deadline, a lot of questions remain as to his future with the team.

Yes, getting the franchise tag would seem to mean that Thomas is guaranteed at least one more year with the Broncos, but that’s not entirely the case. While it’s not uncommon for teams to do so, Thomas will be given the ‘nonexclusive’ franchise tag, which means he is free to negotiate with other teams and the Broncos would have the option of matching the offer, being compensated (heavily) in draft picks, or working out another trade.

The Broncos have had ample time to work out a contract with DT, and according to reports from The Denver Post, he has already turned down a contract offer of roughly $13 million per season, which is roughly what he’ll be paid this year via the franchise tag.

Apparently, DT wants in excess of $15 million per year, which isn’t outrageous considering the market that has been set for top flight wide receivers, but is that a price the Broncos are either willing to pay or want to pay?

It’s hard to imagine.

More from Predominantly Orange

The Broncos haven’t been stingy, but they’ve also been ‘smart’ spenders when it comes to free agents in the John Elway regime. Only Peyton Manning has been given a contract that pays out more than $10 million per season on the cap, and the Broncos have been really careful about structuring short-term deals even with guys like Aqib Talib, who was considered one of the best players on the market last season.

The front office didn’t pay Eric Decker. They aren’t paying Julius Thomas. They probably aren’t paying Terrance Knighton or Orlando Franklin either. Rahim Moore? probably going to get more money elsewhere.

The Broncos clearly believe that the better value comes from the open market, and it’s hard to say they’ve been wrong so far. Elway let certain players go, and he’s gotten upgrades either from within or from other teams’ free agents. He let Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie walk, then signed Aqib Talib and drafted Bradley Roby.

He let Eric Decker walk, then signed Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer. He let Zane Beadles walk and signed Louis Vasquez.

The examples are endless, but if you need another — Knowshon Moreno walks after a 1,000 yard season, and C.J. Anderson makes the Pro Bowl.

The question the Broncos have to answer — and many fans are going to hate that it’s even being asked — is whether or not Demaryius Thomas is worth $15 million annually.

John Elway’s history of moves indicates they don’t think so, and I would tend to agree.

Other than J.J. Watt, it would take some convincing to tell me that any player in the NFL is worth $15 million per year that is not a top tier quarterback. Heck, the Lions are about to lose Ndamukong Suh, who is possibly one of those few players worth the money, because of the humongous investment they made in Calvin Johnson.

The Cardinals are learning the hard way after giving Larry Fitzgerald a massive contract, and luckily for them he was willing to re-structure this offseason.

So what do the Broncos do? Well, Thomas has the freedom, even after his being franchise tagged, to sign a contract with another team. The Broncos should allow him that freedom, because if Thomas signs a deal with another squad, Denver can match it or get two first round picks in return.

If the other team doesn’t want to give up two first round picks, the Broncos have leverage in sign-and-trade talks.

This is not to say the Broncos don’t want Thomas, because offering him $13 million annually seems to indicate they clearly do. Even at that price, I’d hesitate a bit but keeping around a star player like DT is something you should do if you can. That said, the Broncos can’t wait for Thomas to be a free agent in 2016 and his tag number gets even higher than it already is, taking up more cap space.

After all, Von Miller is set to become a free agent in 2016 as well.

If Thomas is planning on playing one more year with Peyton Manning and then bolting next offseason, why not trade him now and get enormous value?

Thomas would undoubtedly draw the interest of any NFL team with a need for a wide receiver, and one in particular makes a ton of sense. The Cleveland Browns have a gaping hole at wide receiver with Josh Gordon’s current situation, and they also are in the top five in the NFL this offseason in cap space. Not only that, but the Browns have two first round picks in 2015 and flexibility to do whatever they want.

It would be costly, but the Browns certainly check all the required boxes if some team in the NFL wants to acquire Thomas from the Broncos, and John Elway would be hard pressed to say no if that offer came about.

Losing both Demaryius and Julius Thomas in the same offseason would probably not sit well with Peyton Manning, but the Broncos also have to keep the long term in mind.

It’s a sticky situation for the Broncos, and trading DT is an obvious longshot situation. We’re not necessarily advocating it, but pointing out that it is indeed an option given the nature of the deal and where the Broncos’ cap currently stands. They are paying Emmanuel Sanders $15 million over three years, so how can Demaryius Thomas justify that same figure annually?

There has been a ton of talk lately that the Broncos could let DT walk with the rest of their free agents, but I don’t see that happening. He’s either playing on a one-year guaranteed contract, or he’s going to get traded.

The Broncos can still try to work out a long-term deal with DT, and they have plenty of time to do so. They’ve now just bought themselves more time to figure out how — and if — they want to make it happen.

Could the Broncos trade Demaryius Thomas? Yes. Is it likely? No, probably not.

It is, however, something to think about if the opportunity presents itself.