The Broncos added a pair of receivers in the first four rounds of the draft this year, despite having Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Some think that the team added Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton with the idea that the team will use either or both to replace either or both of the entrenched starters, the Broncos also may be guarding against the possibility that Thomas decides to call it quits earlier than expected.
As explained by James Palmer of NFL Media, Thomas spent time contemplating his football mortality in the offseason, primary due to injuries that have limited his effectiveness.
“For, like, the past two years, for real, it’s been my neck and my hip,” Thomas told Palmer. “It was just times I couldn’t compete my best. And you know, sometimes, I remember one game we were playing the Patriots, and [Logan Ryan] called it out. He said, ‘You’re not yourself.’ And I was like, ‘Man, I’m doing whatever I can to try to get attention.'”
The goal was to keep teams from realizing he wasn’t himself, so that others on the offense would have an easier time operating. And he’s talking about it now because he’s finally healthy and reinvigorated.
“Now I’m thinking [about playing] 15 or 16 [years],” Thomas told Palmer. “Like, for real, I’m going to be like Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe even more. It just depends, you know? I mean, sh-t, tomorrow I could finish my career off of one crazy injury. But yeah, my mindset has changed.”
Thomas saw his streak of five straight 1,000-yard seasons end in 2017, missing the milestone by only 51 yards. The year before, he made it by only 83. That’s a far cry from his career best of more than 1,600 yards. And it’s causing some to wonder whether one of the rookies will be replacing Thomas sooner than later, something Thomas isn’t happy about hearing.
“It be hurting me sometimes man,” Thomas told Palmer. “I love my young guys . . . but they putting my young guys over me already, and they ain’t even played a down. I be like, all right, cool. It’s whatever. Everybody got their own opinion. I let it slide. I used to not let it slide. It used to, like, bother my game. So now it’s like, it is what it is. It’s like, [I have] no cares about it. I’m going to go out every week, I’m going to go out every day and I’m going to work my ass off every day to be the best I’m going to be. If my best ain’t good enough for here, then you never know.”
His best may barely be good enough for the $8.5 million he’s due to earn in 2018, but Thomas will see his salary spike to $14 million in 2019, the final season of the five-year, $70 million contract he signed in 2015. Another season south of 1,000 yards may be enough to get the Broncos to give Thomas a chance to finish his career elsewhere, especially if Sutton and Hamilton pan out. Thomas realizes that some Broncos fans may be fine with that.
“[T]here’s some fans here that don’t like me,” Thomas told Palmer. “I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t cheer, I’ve had my drops here and there, but I don’t know why. But I’m going to keep playing for the organization, my teammates and myself. All the other people, I don’t got to worry about right now. I do it for the fans for sure; they ain’t got to do what we do from 6 to 8 o’clock. They ain’t got to go out there on the field and do what we do. I love the city, and I’ve been loving them since I got here. Since Day One. Since me and [Tim] Tebow [in round one of the 2010 draft]. Since those days.”
Those days are long gone. And there’s a chance that, after this season, Thomas will join Tebow in being long gone from the Broncos, unless Thomas is prepared to slash his salary dramatically. Actually, it’s possible that Thomas will get a request to do just between now and the start of the regular season, when his $8.5 million becomes as a practical matter guaranteed.