Julius Thomas thanks fans, explains free-agency decision

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas explained his decision to sign a megadeal with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an opportunity to join a franchise "that really values me." He said it was so clear to him last September the Broncos would not re-sign him that he sold his house.

In a lengthy post on ThePlayersTribune.com, Thomas revealed his decision-making process to sign with the Jaguars, thanked Denver's football fans and offered that some criticisms of his game are premature since "I haven't reached my peak; I'm only scratching the surface."

Thomas was introduced Wednesday by the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Florida, after he signed his five-year, $46 million deal that includes $24 million in guaranteed money. Thomas' per-year average ($9.2 million) is just behind Jimmy Graham's ($10 million average per year) for the highest at the position, but his $9 million base salary in 2015 will be the highest at the position.

The Broncos were never going to spend that much on Thomas. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said on multiple occasions in recent weeks that Thomas' representatives made it clear this past season the tight end would test the open market.

In Thomas' post, he explained it this way: "I really thought I was going to sign a long-term deal with the Broncos last summer. I was so confident that I'd be with the franchise for a long time that I purchased a home in Denver last June. I had to let it go in September because it became clear that the management didn't want to make a long-term commitment to me."

Thomas thanked Broncos fans as well as his teammates, but he didn't mention any by name in the post, referring to quarterback Peyton Manning at one point as "the quarterback who threw me perfect pass after perfect pass." His position coach, Clancy Barone, now offensive line coach on Gary Kubiak's staff, was the only Broncos player, coach or member of the team's front-office staff mentioned by name in the piece.

In the past two seasons combined, Thomas had 108 receptions and 24 touchdowns -- 12 each in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He suffered an ankle injury Nov. 16 against the St. Louis Rams, an injury that derailed what was going to be a potentially historic season for Thomas.

He had 12 touchdown receptions in the season's first nine games but caught just three passes for 63 yards combined and no touchdowns in the six regular-season games following the injury.

In some corners, Thomas has taken criticism for his blocking, even from several high-profile former Broncos, including Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe.

"I haven't reached my peak; I'm only scratching the surface," Thomas said in the piece. "Many people might point out that I'm not a complete player yet, as if I don't realize that. I put so much effort and time into getting better at what I do. I realize the things I need to improve more than anybody else does. It's almost like being in the middle of a long project and having someone start critiquing it because they don't like the way one aspect of it looks. I don't like the way it looks either. That's why I'm working on it. I'm not satisfied yet with where I am as a player and what I've accomplished in this league. But I'm also excited to know that my best football is still ahead of me."