Spano elaborates by saying that Julius Thomas will aggressively hit the free agent market and look for a deal that pays him just under $10M per year. Before the season started, it was reported that he had turned down an offer from the Broncos that would have payed him about $8M per year.
In Spano's report, sources close to Thomas describe him as someone who does not love football and is worried about the future health ramifications of the sport. In fact, one source close to the situation told Spano, “Julius Thomas plays football because he can but not because he has to. He has no long term aspirations for it and is not looking to make a lengthy career out of it.”
It was clear as the season went on that Thomas put forth questionable effort each game, especially after he got hurt and was slow to return to the field. When a player loves the game and loves to play, they try to get back out on the field, at all costs - sometimes recklessly.
For instance, when Chris Harris and Von Miller tore their ACLs, they both wanted to go back onto the field and finish the game. Even Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all played in the Super Bowl with serious injuries.
Spano also was told by one of Thomas' teammates, “Julius is here to get his money and get out. That’s just how some guys are. He didn’t grow up playing this game and it’s just not in his DNA to put it all out there.”
Spano also asked this Broncos teammate about Thomas being labeled as "soft", to which he replied, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The teammate also said that there were multiple times during the season in which Thomas could have played, but refused to, and at one point was heard saying that he is at 90% and is "getting close".
It seems as if Thomas' "soft" label is quite fitting. There are players who play at 90% all the time in the NFL, and sports in general. There are some players who play at 50%, or worse even. When a player loves to play the game, they want to be on the field. Those are the players who will do whatever it takes to win a game, whereas Thomas will do what he can, as long as he isn’t risking getting hurt.
His lack of desire to play, even when healthy, has been clear in his time in the NFL. Thomas just does not do whatever he can to help the team win. He missed 28 games in the first four years of his career and some of those injuries were minor ones, which he could likely have played through.
Even when Thomas does come back from injury, he does not put up the same production as he does when he's at 100%. Some may point out that he caught 24 touchdowns in two years, which is great, but that's because Thomas is a redzone threat more than anything and he has one of the league's best quarterbacks throwing to him. However, had he been willing to put more effort into games, try harder, or even come back sooner, he likely would have even more touchdowns.
In 2014, including playoffs, Thomas had 9 catches for 116 yards in the last four games, which are not good numbers over a four-game span. If you add in the St. Louis Rams game, where he injured his ankle, he only had 11 catches for 119 yards in five games.
Another aspect that backs up Thomas being soft is his blocking. Blocking is physically demanding on a player's body, so with Thomas wanting to preserve himself, it explains why he doesn't try harder in that department.
The question for the Broncos is whether Thomas is worth just under $10M per year. My answer? He isn’t even worth the $8M per year he turned down before the season. Thomas is indeed, as well as in reputation, soft and didn’t give his all for the Broncos.
However, there are 31 other teams in the NFL. If one club wants to pay Thomas what he wants for being a soft redzone threat, more power to them. The Broncos can find someone who will give their all for a lot less than what Julius "it's so easy" Thomas is asking for.