- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thomas, who was given the franchise player tag by team officials earlier this year as the two sides try to work out a long-term deal, has not attended any of the Broncos' offseason program, choosing instead to work in Atlanta much of the time. But at least two of Thomas' teammates reached out over the past week to get a progress report.
"I actually talked to him last week, we actually FaceTimed him, me and Von Miller," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, following Wednesday's OTA workout at the team's suburban Denver complex. "... He's still optimistic he'll be here in training camp. ... I think that as the days go on, they're getting closer and closer and hopefully he'll be back because we miss him out here."
Sanders said he and Miller sat in Thomas' locker when they made the video call.
"Obviously we want to know what's going, but actually we just called to tell him we miss him," Sanders said. " ... I could tell he definitely missed being out here."
The Broncos designated Thomas as their franchise player in March, which comes with a one-year, $12.823 million tender that Thomas has yet to sign. As March drew to a close, Thomas said he was going to skip the workouts quarterback Peyton Manning has held annually at Duke University as well as the Broncos' offseason program, which began April 13.
"I'll be back in Georgia, trying to get the body right, get the ankle right," Thomas said at that time. "Then when it's time to go, make sure I'm 100 percent ready to go."
The Broncos and Thomas' representatives have exchanged proposals since as the two sides continue to try to hammer out a deal that is expected, if completed, to make Thomas among the highest-paid receivers in the league.
Wednesday the Broncos held their first organized team activities workout -- making it the first time the team's offense could go against the defense in 11-on-11 situations since the end of the 2014 season. Manning said while he always wants to see Thomas on the field, catching his passes, he understands the business side of the equation.
"I keep up with Demaryius, he's my buddy," Manning said after practice. "Obviously they've got that business side of it to work out. ... When you are out there on the field you certainly wish No. 88 was out there, but at the same time Demaryius is a young player, he has played extremely well his first few years of his career, in my opinion has established himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL and like I said I want what's best for him ... Hopefully there's that happy medium for both side and we can get him in here soon and put that all behind everybody."
It is common for players who have had the franchise player tag placed on them to not attend offseason workouts. In Elway's tenure as the Broncos' chief football decision-maker, the last two Broncos players to have been tagged as franchise players -- left tackle Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater -- each received new long-term deals before training camp opened.
Thomas has said that if no deal was worked out, he would eventually sign the franchise player tender and play the 2015 season under that tender. Calvin Johnson has the largest contract for any wide receiver in the league -- a seven-year, $113 million deal he signed in 2012 that includes $48.8 million in guaranteed money. Andre Johnson, who was released by the Houston Texans earlier this month, signed a seven-year, $67.8 million deal in 2010, while Percy Harvin signed a six-year, $64.2 million deal ($14.5 million guaranteed) in 2013.
Since the start of the 2011 season, the 27-year-old Thomas is second in the NFL with 28, 100-yard receiving games in the regular season and postseason combined, including 10 games that topped the century mark last season. His 226 yards in the Broncos' Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals is a franchise record for a single game, and his 1,619 yards receiving in 2014 set a single-season franchise record.
"I'd rather him be here, y'all know that, he knows that, the players know that, we want everybody here," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak Wednesday. "But you also understand the rules, you understand the situation, you understand what's going on, so as a coach you've got to deal with what's going on here and we've got a lot of guys working their tails off and I'm counting on him taking care of his business. His history says he will do that, he's been a great player and a great person."
Thomas has had three consecutive seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,430 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He is the third player in league history to have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison are the others.