According to reports, Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas will likely leave the team in free agency after contract negotiations appear to have permanently ceased.
It would appear that one of the NFL‘s best marriages is coming to an end. The connection of quarterback Peyton Manning to tight end Julius Thomas, one that produced 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons, will likely be broken, as contract negotiations with the latter have broken down on the would-be unrestricted free agent.
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The Broncos tried to negotiate a contract extension with Thomas last Summer; one valued at $40 million over the next five seasons. It would have made the two time pro-bowler the third highest paid TE in the league, behind only the New Orleans Saints‘ Jimmy Graham and the New England Patriots‘ Rob Gronkowski. Talks between the two parties died down after Denver wanted to keep Thomas’s salary for the 2014 season at $645,000.
Frank Bauer, Thomas’s agent, assured everyone at Friday’s player union-agent meeting that the break up is not the TE’s preference. Bauer feels as though his client is being somewhat forced out of the door in Denver.
“The Broncos came to me, we tried to get it done, it didn’t work. Does Julius love Denver? Yes. Does Julius love the fans there? No question. Does he love the organization and the community? Look at what he does for kids in that town. But for some reason people are trying to tear him down. In my opinion what they’re doing by tearing him down is pushing him away.”
To some extent, the criticism on Bauer’s part is legitimate. Fans, and media alike had been on Thomas’s case for months, after a high ankle sprain hindered his production in the second half of the 2014 season. Through his first nine games on the year, Thomas had caught 12 touchdown passes from Manning, an NFL record over that span to start a season. Post-injury, Thomas was limited to just 11 catches, and zero touchdowns.
And as expected, when Thomas’s production went down, Denver’s offense began to struggle. Even with the emergence of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the team lost a physically dominating presence down field, as inconsistency from no. 1 WR target Demaryius Thomas, and the complete breakdown of Wes Welker failed to provide Manning with an effective enough arsenal to compensate for an injury he himself sustained down the season’s final stretch.
Thomas, who will turn 27 prior to next season, finished his 2014 campaign with 43 receptions for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons are second only to Graham’s 26. That is the kind of production the Broncos should be more fearful of losing.
“Julius loves playing in Denver. He has always talked positively about Denver and what great fans they have. The ball is in Denver’s court,” said Bauer.
With a new head coach in place, one that thrives on offensive efficiency, the Broncos need their best pieces in play. Peyton Manning will be another year older, and have to bear an additional season of grind. Having a talent like Thomas eases that burden. If general manager John Elway is truly committed to this team going forward, letting Thomas walk will be a decision the guy will have to deal with a lot this coming season.
H/T Denver Post
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