Elway: Broncos willing to negotiate with Thomases into preseason

Last updated: Jul 16, 2014 10:34 PM

With training camp a week away, John Elway has already backed off his self-imposed deadline for extending the contracts of Demaryius and Julius Thomas.

Following a Tahoe practice round with John Fox and Joe Sakic, Elway told Lindsay Jones that he's willing to negotiate with the pending 2015 free agents through the first couple weeks of the preseason, suggesting a new deadline of mid-August.

According to Jones, the agents for Orange Julius haven't countered the team's offer to him.

It's Denver's belief that the tight end's camp was waiting for the Jimmy Graham situation to play out in New Orleans.

On Tuesday, Graham agreed to a four-year deal that will pay him $21M over the next two seasons.

Elway made a point of proclaiming that Thomas isn't yet in Graham's stratosphere:

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.

That's the money quote that others are pouncing upon.

Of course, Elway's not making an earth-shattering statement there, and perhaps only Thomas and his agents would disagree with its sentiment.

Graham is the premier receiving tight end in the league, a matchup nightmare, and Drew Brees's most prolific target.

Julius is generally Peyton Manning's third or fourth option, and as Elway notes, is still fairly raw.

But there are a few numbers that help Thomas's case to be paid somewhere in Graham's neighborhood.

Per PFF's data, Thomas saw many more regular season snaps (921 vs 774), caught a far higher percentage of his targets (73.9 vs 63.2), and provided more YAC per reception (5.9 vs 4.9). No pass intended for Julius was intercepted, while six of Graham's targets went back in the wrong direction.

If Jimmy Graham is a $10M/year man, then Julius Thomas is not.

But a quick look at what the league's top tight ends are paid suggests it will be hard to get Julius signed for less than $7M-8M/year.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM