John Elway unhappy with star receiver Demaryius Thomas boycotting Broncos offseason program

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ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Denver Broncos general manager John Elway disagrees with Pro Bowl receiver Demaryius Thomas' strategy to skip the team's offseason program while angling for a long-term contract.

Elway said Thursday during a news conference to discuss the upcoming draft that "there's zero value of him being away from here."

A prolonged boycott by Thomas could hinder the installation of new coach Gary Kubiak's offense that will feature Peyton Manning's tactical and timing proficiencies while placing a greater emphasis on the run and two-tight end sets.

The Broncos placed their franchise tag on Thomas, guaranteeing him $12.8 million in 2015 — which is about the same amount as he's made in his first five NFL seasons combined.

Thomas has said he'd play under the tag if necessary and has echoed Elway's earlier comments that he'd like to "get a deal done as soon as possible."

Thomas' only leverage, however, is to skip the team's offseason program just as he bypassed Manning's annual passing camp at Duke earlier this month.

Asked if it was imperative to get a deal done with Thomas so he could start working with Manning on his timing and rhythm in this new offense, Elway said, "To be dead honest with you, I see absolutely zero value of 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."

Elway said skipping team activities won't sway negotiations.

When it was suggested that Thomas, who was hampered by a sprained ankle down the stretch last season, was simply protecting himself by avoiding the possibility of an injury that could affect his worth, Elway bristled.

"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. Tell me why that makes sense that he wouldn't be here working out with us? That's why I don't understand it at all. That's part of the game, but it makes no sense for him not be here."

Thomas' agent, Todd France, didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, Thomas told The AP he didn't think his staying away from the offseason program would hamper his timing with Manning, suggesting their three years together gives him confidence "we can pick up where we left off."

Thomas set career highs with 111 catches for 1,619 yards in 2014, when he scored 11 times. Since Manning's arrival in Denver in 2012, Thomas has been his top receiver, catching 297 passes for 4,483 yards and 35 TDs.

In that three-year span, Thomas has ranked first in the league in yards receiving, second to Antonio Brown in receptions and second to Dez Bryant in touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl each year.

Manning already is adjusting to being without Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, one of four starters who bolted in free agency along with slot men Jacob Tamme and Wes Welker, two of Manning's most trusted teammates.

The two other times Elway used his franchise tag — on blindside protector Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater — the sides reached long-term deals by summertime, although Clady didn't sign his contract until the eve of training camp in 2013.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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