Broncos General Manager John Elway thinks tight end Julius Thomas has "tremendous upside," but when it comes to paying the 26-year-old Pro Bowler, Elway said Thomas is not quite at the level of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, according to a report Wednesday from Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports.
Graham reached a multi-year deal this week that will pay him $40 million over four years, with $21 million of it guaranteed. He had 85 catches each of the last three seasons and led all players in TD catches last year (16). By comparison, Thomas, after his first two injury-plagued seasons, had 65 catches and 12 touchdowns last year in his first full season.
Elway briefly commented on the different between the two in the report:
"Even though Julius had a tremendous year for us, he's only (played) 23 games. We want Julius to be a Bronco for a long time and we think he has tremendous upside, but he's not at that level."
The Broncos have made contract offers to Thomas and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas -- both of whom are entering the final year of their rookie contract -- and the sides expect to continue the negotiation process after training camp opens on July 24, according to the report. Together last season, Julius and Demaryius combined for 157 catches, 2,218 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in a record-setting offense for Denver.
Elway said he wants to have contracts finalized with them by the end of the second week of preseason.
- Marc Weinreich