The Broncos and Julius Thomas were close to a contract extension as recently as the end of last August, says Thomas's agent, Frank Bauer, in an interview with the DP. However, the Broncos only offered conditional guarantees kicking in starting in 2015, with no increase to Thomas's minimum $645K salary for 2014.
As Bauer tells it, the two sides were close to a deal on the day of Denver's preseason finale at Dallas - with Thomas preparing to purchase a home in the area - but the team never got back to the agent.
Until he spoke with Bauer, Mike Klis had been reporting that Denver offered Thomas a contract worth $8M annually. However, with the agent's clarification, we now know the extension only kicked in after last season's $645K salary, bringing the average annual value of the deal down to a far less impressive $6.77M per year.
Klis describes that math as the player's view, but we just know it as math. If, as Bauer asserts, the proposed deal's guarantees were only conditional, then it's suddenly quite obvious why Thomas is about to become a free agent.
Ask yourselves a question, Broncos fans. If you were Julius Thomas, about to hit free agency as one of the biggest matchup nightmares available, would you have signed a contract without any full guarantees? Without a raise for the 2014 season? With the salary cap likely to again jump in 2015?
It's no small matter that Klis had been throwing that incorrect $8M/year detail out there, as Bauer and Thomas's father have noticed and responded to the public criticism being lobbed Julius's way. The DP reporter has now corrected his error, but the damage is done.
That's not to suggest that fan/fanboy blog reaction is going to make the difference between Julius staying or going. It's also not a call to be mad at the Broncos, or John Elway; they're just going about their business. But they're playing a PR game here, and the fans have bit, and hard, as they always do. Let's not forget how this all works:
The Broncos have known for some time now that Thomas is headed elsewhere. That financial/football decision has already been made, by the Broncos, or by Julius, or by both parties. Now, it's just a matter of managing fan expectations, because what else matters at this point?
John Elway & Co. tell Klis, "Hey, we're trying to win a Super Bowl, and we can only afford to sign so many guys. BTW, we offered Julius $8M per year a few months back, and he turned it down."
Klis, like any good beat writer who's not paid to read/write between the lines, passes along that info, and the fans go nuts.
Julius is greedy.
Julius is soft.
Julius is selfish.
Julius just wants to get paid, and he doesn't care about #RINGZ.
Julius is never going to be healthy, because he hasn't yet played a full 16-game schedule.
Julius is so selfish that he held himself out of games last year.
Well, guess what? Broncos Country has now moved on from Julius Thomas, is already envisioning him in silver and black, and has turned its ire upon him.
Just as John Elway & Co. want it.