Eli Manning’s team currently is faced with one star receiver not under contract and another star receiver whose rookie contract will expire after the 2013 season.
His brother’s team will soon be facing a similar problem.
Thanks to the stats boost that came from swapping Tim Tebow for Peyton Manning, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas both had more than 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns in 2012. Decker’s four-year rookie contract expires after the 2013 season, and Thomas’s five-year first-round deal from that same draft expires after 2014.
The problem for the Broncos is that signing both guys to long-term, big-money deals could result in both of them to a certain extent being wasted after Manning retires. Even if he plays three more years, the Broncos would get two years under Decker’s new deal and one under Thomas’s.
If Decker goes first, Thomas would likely try to surpass him in total value and guaranteed money. The best strategy for keeping both, then, could be getting Decker signed to a reasonable long-term deal before he qualified for free agency, and then using the franchise tag on Thomas if necessary to keep him around for 2015, which could be Manning’s final season.
That approach means Decker would get paid at least two years before Thomas, which could make Thomas antsy about getting his own new contract.
For now, it appears that the Broncos are content to ride it out. But if they can finish out the postseason with a Super Bowl win, they may have to use the franchise tag to keep Decker around for 2014, since he’d be a hot commodity on the open market.
At that point, the smart move for the Broncos could be to let Decker walk. He then could be replaced by a lower-priced veteran who would relish the opportunity to catch plenty of passes and perhaps win a ring with Peyton Manning.
Which leads us back to the title of this specific blurb. Soon, the Broncos may have to choose between the two receivers who were drafted three years ago by Josh McDaniels.