ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos will kick off their mandatory veteran mini-camp, which will run through June 11th. All players currently under contract are required to be in attendance, or face a fine.
Demaryius Thomas is not likely to be one of the players attending. After the Broncos applied their Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag to him back in March, which will guarantee him $12.823M for 2015, he has skipped all conditioning and offseason training activities, in an effort to negotiate a long-term deal.
We have recently speculated on whether Thomas will join his team this week. I’ve been of the opinion that it’s unlikely he’ll show up, because he is not technically under contract until he signs his franchise tender, so he doesn’t have to show and cannot be fined for football truancy.
According to 9NEWS’ Mike Klis, the Broncos do not expect Thomas to attend their veteran mini-camp tomorrow. General Manager John Elway and Thomas’ camp have until July 15th to work out a long-term extension. If they cannot reach an accord by then, Thomas will have no choice but to play under the franchise tag in 2015.
Until it starts costing him money, Broncos fans should not expect to see their Pro Bowl wide receiver at Dove Valley. If you were him, would you show up? Holding out from OTAs is basically the only leverage Thomas has towards negotiating a new deal.
The concern is whether Thomas’ absence hurts or helps his chances of actually getting a new contract offer from the Broncos, although it must be noted that Elway himself opined back in April that it would not influence his approach to negotiations.
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“There is no value for him not to be here with his teammates,” Elway said. “As far as negotiations and his new deal and what’s going on, we’d like to get something done. By him being away from here, there is zero value not only to us, but also to him. To me, it makes no sense. That actually has no effect on anything that we’re talking to about trying to get a contract done with him, because that’s what we’d ultimately like to do. For him not to be here has zero effect.”
Elway might say that Thomas’ absence might have “no effect” on the negotiations, but clearly, the Broncos’s GM feels passionate enough about the situation to use strong words, like “no sense” and “zero value”. As Elway said, the Broncos want to get a deal done and keep Thomas in Denver, but they also face the prospect of Von Miller playing in a contract year.
As a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection, the 2011 A.P. Defensive Rookie of the Year is poised to garner a max contract and take his place beside the highest paid defenders in the National Football League. Figuring out how to juggle both a Thomas and Miller extension, as it relates to the salary cap, can’t be easy for Elway and team cap guru Michael Sullivan, but it’s a good problem to have.
As Klis mentions in his piece, both players will be free agents following this season and the Broncos will have to extend one of them, because they cannot franchise tag both players in 2016. Much of the team’s future salary cap picture is contingent on whether Peyton Manning’s $19M salary will be on the books.
As Khalid Alshami recently examined, on paper, the Broncos are in decent shape cap-wise next season, but they do have a number of key players set to hit free agency beyond Miller and Thomas, including Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, and Danny Trevathan. Much of their projected cap space in 2016 figures to be consumed, if they plan on retaining most of their young core players.
For guys like Wolfe, Jackson and Trevathan, if they dominate in 2015, under the new defensive scheme of Wade Phillips, it could price them right out of town. For now, however, that’s all speculation. It’s a topic for another time.