John Elway Blasts WR Demaryius Thomas’ Choice to Sit Out Offseason Activities

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was given the team’s franchise tag this offseason, worth $12.8 million in 2015. But Thomas wants more than that—he wants a long-term deal, one that can provide both financial and professional stability. And until he gets it, he will be sitting out of the Broncos’ voluntary offseason activities.

This decision did not sit well with Broncos general manager-slash-vice president of football operations John Elway, who blasted the wide receiver in a meeting with the press on Thursday. Elway, via Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports’ Shutdown Corner, said:

“To be dead honest with you, I see absolutely zero value with him being away from here — zero value for him. There’s no value for him not to be here with his teammates, so as far as negotiations and him and a new deal and what’s going on, we’d like to get something done. But by him being away from here, there is zero value not only to us, but to him. To me it makes no sense.”

It may not make sense to Elway, but it is a common negotiating tactic employed by NFL players who are angling for more or new money. Further, Thomas is merely sitting out of voluntary offseason workouts, a regular practice for many veteran players around the league.

Edholm noted that Thomas said to Shutdown Corner at the Super Bowl that “he planned to let his nagging ankle injury from last season continue to heal.” But even that explanation was not adequate enough for Elway:

“That makes no sense to me, him not getting hurt? … If he gets hurt here, he’s covered [by injury protection]. If he gets hurt somewhere else, he’s not. So tell me why that makes sense that he wouldn’t be here working out with us. It’s why I don’t understand it at all. That’s part of the game, but it makes no sense for him not to be here.”

Thomas has a career total of 351 catches for 5,317 yards and 41 touchdowns, with 111 catches on 184 targets in 2014, for 1,619 yards and 11 scores. He has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards per season since 2012, when quarterback Peyton Manning joined the team. Thomas is Manning’s top target, and as such, has emerged as one of the NFL’s top receivers.

The Broncos’ reluctance to negotiate with Thomas makes sense. It would better serve their interests to wait until next year, when it’s likely Manning will move on from the game of football, to find a way to pay Thomas that reflects how Manning-dependent his production has been and how his stat line may change with another quarterback throwing him the football.

Thomas’ holdout also makes sense. The franchise tag is rarely welcomed by any player given it, as it trades away job security for one year of major financial compensation. And it’s not likely that Thomas’ holdout will draw all the way through training camp and into the regular season—that is, as long as Elway doesn’t drive him away.

Elway is upset. As a former quarterback and team leader, he values the presence of veteran players at offseason workouts, especially the voluntary ones. It sets a good example to the younger players. But that does not mean Elway was right to publicly lash out at Thomas for skipping what ultimately are voluntary workouts. He should reserve his ire for players missing mandatory workouts, not an offseason program that is typically sparsely attended by veterans.

Photo: USA Today Sports