- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Denver Broncos reporter
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos know the numbers, they know what the best wide receivers in the league have done in recent seasons. They know what those receivers have been paid.
They know Demaryius Thomas is one of those receivers who will have one of those deals.
And Demaryius Thomas knows it, too. Asked Monday if he believes he is among the league’s elite at his position, Thomas said:
"I think so. A lot of guys have their own opinion, but I’m up there. I feel like I’m with the best if you ask me, and I will keep working to make sure I stay up there with the best."
Thomas said Monday he wants to remain with the Broncos, but there are business matters for his representatives and the Broncos to attend to first. He said he will not attend workouts at Duke with quarterback Peyton Manning and the other front-line pass-catchers for the Broncos, and will not attend the Broncos' offseason program, which starts April 13, as the sides negotiate.
This is expected and comes without any real business animosity on either side. The Broncos want Thomas under contract for the long term and know what the market says Thomas is worth. They also know Thomas is exactly the kind of player other players watch to see how the team approaches contract talks with him.
He's a proven player, a team captain. In short, he is exactly the kind of player the Broncos must keep when they say they want to keep their own. When the team placed the franchise player tag on Thomas this month, it did so with the intent to keep working toward a long-term contract. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway put it like this:
"This is another step in our efforts to extend Demaryius' contract and ensure he remains a Denver Bronco." He also called Thomas "a very important part of our team" and "a guy who has shown what kind of player he is."
The past two players the Broncos used the franchise player tag on -- tackle Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater -- signed long-term contracts before the next training camp opened. The deadline the Broncos face at the moment is July 15, the final day teams can sign a player who carries the franchise player tag to a long-term deal before the upcoming season.
After July 15 Thomas would play under the one-year, $12.823 million tender offer.
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, released by the Houston Texans this month, signed a seven-year, $67.8 million deal in 2010. Percy Harvin signed a six-year, $64.2 million deal ($14.5 million guaranteed) in 2013, and Mike Wallace signed a five-year, $60 million deal ($30 million guaranteed) in 2013.
That is the template the Broncos and Thomas' representatives are working from.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Thomas, 27, is second in the NFL with 28 100-yard receiving games in the regular season and postseason combined, including 10 100-yard games last season. Seven of those came in consecutive weeks. His 226 yards in the Broncos' Oct. 5 win against the Arizona Cardinals is a franchise record for a single game, and his 1,619 yards receiving last season set a single-season franchise record.
With three consecutive seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,430 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns, he is only the third player in league history to have three consecutive seasons of at least 1,400 yards receiving and at least 10 touchdowns; Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison are the others.
"I feel like I’ve worked hard enough as a player for people to know, to have an idea of what I’m about as a person and a player," Thomas said this week. "I always want to be better. I understand the business side of it, but my job is to be the best player I can be, always be better, help the Broncos win games. The business won't get in the way of that. Like I've said, any player would want a long-term deal, that security, but none of this will affect how I prepare or play. I won't hurt my team, I want to help my team win."
Thomas attended part of the Call of Duty video game world championships in Los Angeles this week as part of a pro-am portion where the winning team’s prize money -- Thomas' team won $100,000 after beating a team that included Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate -- will be donated to initiatives to help military veterans find jobs. He said an appearance is a far different affair these days than it would have been two years ago. Call it the fruits of catching passes from Manning in an offense that has scored more than 1,000 points in the past two seasons combined.
"It’s a lot different, very, very different," Thomas said. "If I did something like this a couple years ago, people didn’t really know me, I just kind of went in and introduced myself and then people would say 'oh yeah.' Now they see you, they know you. I enjoy it because I feel like they’ve got love for me, or respect me and what I do and what our team has done."
Denver Broncos understand the costs involved in keeping their top receiver.