As had long been expected, the Broncos applied their non-exclusive franchise tag to pending unrestricted free agent wideout Demaryius Thomas just ahead of Monday's deadline.
The accompanying tender is worth $12.823M and will count against Denver's cap space immediately, even before Thomas signs the one-year deal. Denver and Thomas now have until 4pm ET on Wednesday, July 15 to agree to a multiyear contract. Once past this deadline, the two sides cannot execute a long-term deal until after the conclusion of the 2015 regular season.
A non-exclusive tag allows Thomas the freedom to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Broncos would have the opportunity to match, known as a right of first refusal.
Should Thomas sign an offer sheet, and the Broncos opt not to match, the signing team would owe Denver two first-round draft choices. It's our opinion that in such a scenario, the Broncos would be best served by taking on the draft choices and letting Demaryius walk.
According to the NFLPA, Denver's adjusted salary cap for 2015 is $150,066,024. Working off this number and OTC's estimate (which had assumed a league cap of $143M), Denver should have had $30,240,942 in space prior to the Thomas tag, and $17,417,942 after it.
An expected restructuring of Peyton Manning's contract should add significantly to that figure, while Denver can easily free up as much as $8M by cutting veterans Manny Ramirez, Britton Colquitt, Chris Clark, and Andre Caldwell. Additional space could also come with a long-term agreement with Von Miller, who is scheduled to count for $9.754M in cash and cap under his fifth-year option.
The one-year tender becomes fully guaranteed upon signing, but it's been reported that Thomas is likely to hold off on signing to maintain a smidgen of leverage in his contract negotiation with Denver. Thomas's deadline to sign the tender is 4pm ET on the Tuesday following Denver's Week 10 game, likely sometime in mid-November.
Per Mike Klis, the two sides were about $2M per year apart last summer in their negotiation, with Thomas reportedly seeking an AAV of $15M. Of course, talk of annual average values is always secondary to fully guaranteed money, and there have been no reports regarding those figures.
Unrestricted free agency opens at 4pm ET on Tuesday, March 10.