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BSN Breakdown: Elite numbers say Demaryius Thomas fully deserving of new contract

Ken Pomponio Avatar
June 11, 2015


So Demaryius Thomas, who this season is scheduled to make $12,823,000 as the second-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, is unhappy with his contract and is displaying his displeasure by boycotting the Denver Broncos’ offseason workouts?

Hey, that’s the reality of NFL life – the only real recourse for the player – under the franchise tag these days as D.T. is seeking a long-term deal with some hefty guaranteed money.

Now if and/or when Thomas lands that long-term contract, it’s not expected to approach Calvin Johnson money as the Lions’ stud is entering the fourth year of a seven-year $113.5 million deal, of which a cool $48.75 is guaranteed.  But the sports contract site Spotrac is still projecting that Thomas will land a five-year, $80.9 million deal with $37.2 mil guaranteed.

That would boost DT’s annual average to $16.18 million, which would fall just shy of Megatron’s current $16.2 million average.

Hey, not bad work – if, of course, you can get it.

But is Thomas worth that type of financial commitment?

It can be argued – and quite compellingly – that elite wide receivers aren’t a necessary ingredient in the modern-day Super Bowl-championship recipe. But as far as the elite WR going rate goes, Thomas is more than deserving to be paid among the top three at his position.

How do we know this? It’s all in the numbers – the straight-up stats. And they make the argument – and make it quite compellingly.

Judge for yourself:

We start with the basic regular-season receiving numbers from the last three seasons. Among all league pass-catchers, Thomas ranks:

  • Third in targets with 469
  • Third in receptions with 297
  • Second in receiving yards with 4,483
  • And second in TDs – tied with tight end Jimmy Graham – with 35.

Only Andre (489) and Calvin Johnson (488) have had more targets; just Andre Johnson (306) and Antonio Brown (305) have more receptions; only Megatron (4,533) has had more yards and only Dez Bryant – who’s in the same franchise-tag boat as D.T. – has had more scoring grabs during that span.

As far as the 2012-14 postseason receiving stats go, D.T. sits fourth in targets (57), is tied for third in receptions (36), sixth in yards (402) and is tied for top honors in TD catches (five).

And if it’s red-zone receiving figures you want from the last three seasons, Thomas ranks first in targets (80), second in catches (40), second in yards (314) and sixth in D receptions (19).

Hey, we’re off to a good start in stating the case for Thomas, but now we get into the real impressive resumé material.

Since the start of the 2012 season, Thomas leads the league with 1,959 yards in YAC (yards after catch). For comparison, Calvin Johnson has a YAC of 1,284, while Brown has totaled 1,597 and Bryant has racked up 1,418.

Still, all three are still a good 400 yards behind Thomas, who has ranked either first or second in YAC in each of the three seasons.

During that span, Thomas also has notched 50 receptions of 25 or more yards – a figure which also easily tops the league. Calvin Johnson and Bryant, meanwhile, have had 38 25-yard-plus receptions and Brown has recorded 30 – still a ways in back of Thomas.

So, yeah, we get that D.T. ranks rather favorably when it comes to his wideout contemporaries. But how about his place among the all-time great receivers?

With Thomas, a 2010 first-round pick, set to enter his sixth pro season, that’s still to be determined. But NFL wide receivers typically don’t hit their full stride and/or display their true potential until their third pro seasons, and in that regard Thomas has had one of the best third-year-through-fifth-year runs – in NFL history.

Sure, Thomas’ third season dovetailed perfectly with the Mile High arrival of one Peyton Manning, but look at who’s throwing the ball to any stand-out receiver and you’ll usually find a fairly decent QB.

We’ve already detailed the stats – 297 receptions for 4,483 yards and 35 TDs – and here’s where those figures place D.T. among the league’s all-time best WRs over their third through fifth campaigns:

  • Second in total receptions as only Brown, with 305, has had more.
  • First – as in No. 1 – in yards with only Torry Holt (4,301) and Lance Alworth (4,220) Chad Johnson (4,061) and Randy Moss (4,017) the only others to top 4,000.
  • Eighth in TDs with all-time leader Jerry Rice (48) topping the chart

In all, Thomas had 86 more receptions than Rice, 698 more receiving yards than Megatron and three more touchdown catches than Moss during the same three-year period of their respective careers.

In fact only three wideouts – Calvin Johnson, Rice and Marvin Harrison – have accumulated more receiving yards than Thomas’ 4,483 total from 2012-14 in any three-season stretch at any point in NFL history.

So you still can spell elite without the first half of D.T., but we might have to reconsider.

Throw in Thomas’ Super Bowl-record 13 receptions, his amazing 51-yards-per-catch average and unforgettable game-winning 80-yard TD catch-and-run in the 2011 wild-card round and, wow. Add in his durability and dependability – having played 66 straight games for the orange and blue since Week 7 of the 2011 season – and the numbers add up to a deserving elite payday for a wide receiver who looks to be well on way to joining the ranks of the all-time best wideouts in the NFL annals.

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