John Elway frustrated by Demaryius Thomas missing offseason program

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As a former player, John Elway may understand why Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has elected to skip the team's offseason program. But it doesn't mean Elway the football executive has to like it.

At a pre-draft gathering Thursday, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations/general manager made his feelings clear on the matter.

Asked if it was important to sign Thomas to a long-term deal sooner rather than later so he could learn the new offense, Elway said: "To be dead honest with you: I see absolutely zero value with him being away from here. Zero value, for him. There's no value for him not to be here with his teammates, so as far as negotiations and him and a new deal and what's going on, we'd like to get something done, but by him being away from here, there is zero value not only to us, but to him. To me it makes no sense.''

The Broncos designated Thomas as their franchise player in March, which comes with a one-year, $12.823 million tender that Thomas has yet to sign. Last month, Thomas said he was going to skip the workouts quarterback Peyton Manning has held annually at Duke University as well as the Broncos' offseason program, which began April 13.

"I'll be back in Georgia, trying to get the body right, get the ankle right," Thomas said in March. "Then when it's time to go, make sure I'm 100 percent ready to go."

Elway said he doesn't see any leverage in Thomas staying away, adding that the Broncos would want to get a deal done with the three-time Pro Bowl selection just as badly if Thomas was attending the team's workouts as they do when Thomas is not in attendance.

"It actually has no effect to anything as we talk about trying to get a contract done, because that's what ultimately we'd like to do,'' Elway said. "For him not to be here has zero effect.''

Though the franchise player salary would be guaranteed as soon as Thomas signed the tender, he said last month he would stay away and "my agent and Elway are handling that.''

Asked Wednesday if a player like Thomas would have injury concerns if he attended an offseason program without a long-term deal in hand, Elway was equally emphatic.

"That makes no sense to me -- him not getting hurt?'' Elway said. "... If he gets hurt here, he's covered. If he gets hurt somewhere else, he's not. So tell me why that makes sense that he wouldn't be here working out with us. It's why I don't understand it at all. That's part of the game, but it makes no sense for him not to be here.''

It is common for players who have had the franchise player tag placed on them to not attend offseason workouts. In Elway's tenure as the Broncos' chief football decision-maker, the last two Broncos players to have been tagged as franchise players -- left tackle Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater -- each received new long-term deals before training camp opened in those years.

Thomas has said that if no deal was worked out, he would eventually sign the franchise player tender and work toward "helping us get to the Super Bowl."

Calvin Johnson has the largest contract for any wide receiver in the league -- a seven-year, $113 million deal he signed in 2012 that includes $48.8 million in guaranteed money. Andre Johnson, who was released by the Houston Texans earlier this month, signed a seven-year, $67.8 million deal in 2010, while Percy Harvin signed a six-year, $64.2 million deal ($14.5 million guaranteed) in 2013.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 27-year-old Thomas is second in the NFL with 28 100-yard receiving games in the regular season and postseason combined, including 10 100-yard games last season. His 226 yards in the Broncos' Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals is a franchise record for a single game, and his 1,619 yards receiving in 2014 set a single-season franchise record.

Thomas has had three consecutive seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,430 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He is the third player in league history to have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns; Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison are the others.