Jack Dempsey
July 15, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Demaryius Thomas hasn't lost any of his impeccable timing.

The Denver Broncos' star wide receiver signed a five-year, $70 million contract just before the deadline Wednesday.

It's the richest contract in franchise history and includes $43.5 million guaranteed.

Had the sides not hammered out a deal, Thomas would have played this season under the $12,823,000 franchise tag, which still would have been about as much as he'd made in his first five seasons combined.

''Thrilled to reach a long-term deal with Demaryius,'' general manager John Elway tweeted. ''He is one of the NFL's top WRs & will continue to be a big part of the Broncos' success!!''

That was a far different tone than the last time Elway spoke publicly about Peyton Manning's top target.

It was just before the draft and Elway was asked about Thomas boycotting the team's offseason program, his only perceived leverage under the franchise tag designation. Wanting Thomas on hand as new coach Gary Kubiak installed his offense, Elway fumed then, ''there's zero value in him not being here.''

That was about as unpleasant as things got, however.

The negotiations never really got nasty. Manning said sure, he'd prefer Thomas show up but he also wanted him to get every penny he had coming. Teammates good-naturedly photo-shopped Thomas into their pictures. And Kubiak had his video department send Thomas the new playbook and clips of practice to keep him up to speed.

''We'll just have to be careful with D.T. when he comes into training camp and really manage him and get him up to speed with what we're doing mentally but also physically because he didn't have the OTAs or the minicamps with us,'' Elway said.

The total value of Thomas' deal is similar to the one Dallas Cowboys All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant signed Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Thomas told The Associated Press he wasn't interested in using Bryant as a barometer for his own contract, insisting, ''I'm just trying to get what I think I deserve. I don't worry about no other player.''

Thomas told The AP this spring he also didn't think his absence from the offseason program would hamper his timing with Manning, suggesting their three years together gave him confidence ''we can pick up where we left off'' whenever he signed his deal.

By signing Thomas, the Broncos won't have to worry about him being a no-show when camp training camp starts in two weeks. Nor will they go into the 2016 offseason with two superstars entering free agency. Linebacker Von Miller, barring an extension, will be up for a mega deal after the 2015 season.

Thomas set career highs with 111 catches for 1,619 yards - a franchise record - in 2014, when he scored 11 times. Since Manning's arrival in Denver in 2012, Thomas has caught 297 passes for 4,483 yards and 35 TDs.

In that three-year span, Thomas has ranked first in the league in yards receiving, second to Antonio Brown in catches and second to Dallas' Bryant in touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl each year.

Elway said he has faith that Thomas will continue being a great player even after the Manning era is over.

''I don't think there's any question that D.T.'s one of the top wide receivers in the league and he's being compensated that way now. It's very much, very well deserved,'' Elway said. ''So, we have high expectations. We think he comes right into his prime. We don't anticipate him backing up at all. The expectations are going to be increased now and we just think he's got all the skills.

''Plus, the type of person he is ... we have a tremendous amount of confidence in D.T. And that's why we felt comfortable paying him this kind of money.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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