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What happened to Julius Thomas? The only thing that dropped off more than his production on the field was his likeness in Denver. Rewind a few years ago and virtually nobody who considers themselves a Broncos fan knew the first thing about Julius Thomas. Those that had heard of him simply knew he was a one-time basketball player, the hot new trend of tight ends in the NFL. Fast forward a year later and everybody not only knew about Julius Thomas but loved him. Whether you were a Broncos fan or an adamant fantasy football participant who “discovered” Julius Thomas, you were a fan.
So what happened?
All the way up until week 10 of the NFL season, every single solitary Broncos fan was desperate to get Julius Thomas back. Why? Orange Julius was averaging 47 yards per game and 1.34 touchdowns per game. And that was despite missing five games due to a lingering ankle injury, which I’ll get into later. Thomas still ranked 7th among tight ends in fantasy production (None of whom missed more than two games). In fact, Thomas was tied for 4th in touchdown receptions in the entire NFL last season. To put that into perspective, Odell Beckham Jr. played in one more game than Julius Thomas and had they had the same number of touchdown receptions. The difference? Thomas was one of three legitimate receiving options, Beckham stood alone.
I know what you’re thinking, and it is one of two things:
1) Julius Thomas is only good for touchdowns
Let’s take a trip down hypothetical lane and assume this is true, is it really such a bad thing? Touchdowns are such a valuable commodity in the NFL, are we really going to be upset about a player ONLY producing touchdowns?
Moreover, this is the case simply because Julius Thomas acquired more targets in the red zone than he did between the 20s. His fault? I doubt it. Reason being, if he starts racking up receiving yardage the way he was racking up touchdowns, his price is even higher than it already is. Am I saying the powers that be did not allow Thomas to garner receptions in between the 20’s so that they may be able to afford him in the off season? Quite honestly, yeah. I am.
When it is all said and done, the NFL is a business before anything else, and money is always the driving factor behind any and all decisions made. You can allow yourself to live in a fantasy world where the higher-ups involved with your favorite football team only exist to win a championship, but that’s not true. 31 owners don’t win rings every year, but they’re not starving. Why? The NFL is a business. Wake up.
2) Julius Thomas is soft
Here we go with this old song and dance. Did we forget that Thomas only played one season of college football? The guy is a basketball player trying to learn how to play football. Luckily, he’s so big, athletic and smart that he’s been able to transition into playing football at the highest level.
In the last two seasons, Thomas has missed six games. Sure, it may be more than you’d like to see, but this is a guy that wasn’t even supposed to play football. His basketball coaches didn’t want him playing football, but he ended up playing because 6’5, 250 pounds does whatever it wants. Low and behold, he played college football for one season, was First-team All Big Sky, and made an NFL roster. You mean to tell me that you have the audacity to sit on your coach and bad mouth a guy you had cheered for at the beginning of the season?
How dare you.
This is a guy no Broncos fan knew of about two years ago. He went from unknown draft pick from a nameless school to a beloved superstar/Pro Bowler to the team pariah…In two years. Are we as Broncos fans really that temperamental? Sorry…are YOU as a Broncos fan really that temperamental?
I have spent a lot of time talking with Julius Thomas on a professional level and I can promise you that there are very few NFL athletes who GET IT the way that he does. Julius refuses to be a faceless cog in a broken system, with that system being the NFL. Why is it broken? Because each and every player in the NFL is replaceable. Don’t believe me? Your beloved Peyton Manning was once replaced. Your beloved Terrell Davis was once replaced. The great Champ Bailey? He was replaced too. The NFL operates on a ‘next man up’ policy because time is undefeated, and Julius understands this.
Nothing is guaranteed. If the likes of Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey can be released, who then is exempt? NO ONE IS SAFE. Julius, unlike a plethora of NFL athletes, understands that. You as a fan, however, do not. You appreciate everything Champ Bailey has done for you, but you want him gone as soon as he is unable to help your favorite football team.
Shame on you. These are people. They’re human beings. Nothing gives you the right to demand a guy like Julius Thomas not be resigned. Julius has given your favorite team 24 touchdowns in two seasons and you refuse the prospect of bringing him back?
Guess what, Julius Thomas doesn’t owe the Broncos a damn thing. But they sure as hell owe him something, and you as a fan owe him something all the same. I’m not talking about money- I’m talking about respect. Show him some love. For the love of God, ACT LIKE A FAN!
Go ahead and play general manager from your couch or work desk or wherever you feel the most powerful if that’s what helps you feel better about yourself but understand that Julius Thomas doesn’t need the Denver Broncos as much as they need him.
Julius Thomas is a top three tight end in the NFL and he deserves to be compensated as such. You’re allowed to disagree but don’t come crying when he’s succeeding with a different team next season. I’ll be sitting on my couch resisting the urge to say “I told you so.”