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Updated Contract Forecast: Demaryius Thomas

Updated Contract Forecast: Demaryius Thomas
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UDPATED Contract Forecast: Demaryius Thomas

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The Denver Broncos are rounding into form halfway through the 2014 season, and look certain to make another postseason run out of the AFC West. The recent offensive surge has impacted all of the Broncos receiving core, but none moreso than that of Demaryius Thomas, who is on pace for yet another statistically eye-popping season. Through 6 games, Thomas has collected 39 balls for 662 yards and 6 touchdowns, making him on pace for 104 receptions, 1,765 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns caught. Our Premium team assessed the value of Thomas last November, calculating his average annual worth at around $9.7M per season. We'll take an updated approach to that analysis, using the projected 2014 stats along withhis 2013 numbers to assess what the Broncos might be dealing with when they re-open contract discussions next February.

Comparable Wide Receivers
We've selected a variable set of receivers to compare Thomas to in terms of production. To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Mike Wallace 5 $60,000,000 $12,000,000 27
Pierre Garcon 5 $42,500,000 $8,500,000 26
Larry Fitzgerald 7 $113,000,000 $16,142,857 28
Calvin Johnson 7 $113,455,000 $16,207,857 27
Averages 6 $82,238,750 $8,187,500 26.5

Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.

View the list of Top Average Paid Wide Receivers in the NFL

Because Thomas will be 27 at the time of his next contract, we'll adjust the above contracts for Garcon/Fitzgerald up/down to normalize them as if they also signed their deals at age 27. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
5 $73,484,671 $14,696,934
Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the year prior to signing their second contract by showing Games Played, Receptions per Game, Receiving Yards per Game, Yards of Catch per Game and Touchdowns per Year.
Mike Wallace (2011-12, PIT) 15.5 4.38 65.5 1014 24.9 8
Larry FItzgerald (2009-10, ARI) 16 5.875 69.7 1114 16.375 9.5
Pierre Garcon (2010-11, IND) 15.5 4.38 55.8 866 19.61 6
Calvin Johnson (2010-11, DET) 15.5 5.54 90.4 1400.5 28 14
Averages 15.625 5.04 70.35 1098.625 22.22 9.375
Demaryius Thomas (2013-14, DEN) 16 6.125 99.85 1597 50.3 15
% Difference 2.40% 21.44% 41.93% 45.36% 126.36% 60.00%
MEDIAN PRIME %: 43.65%
Thomas brings forth one of the more dominant evaluations we've ever done, producing positive comparisons in every statistical category. Thomas gains more than two times the yards after catch of any of our variable receivers, and nearly scores at that rate as well. We'll factor in both the Average and Median percentages to show a range projection below.
Yards After the Catch
Demaryius Thomas isn't just catching a ton of balls and scoring a ton of touchdowns, he's doing the work on his own. Thomas was 3rd in YAC in 2012, 1st in 2013, and is currently tied for 1st in 2014 with Golden Tate (according to Pro Football Focus).

He's currently on pace for 904 yards after the catch in 2014 - more yards than many receivers will have total this season. This is by far the one statistic that sets Demaryius Thomas apart from the crowd, though he's doing plenty in every other category to earn himself an elite payday.
Guaranteed Money
Thomas hasn't missed a game since before the 2012 season, meaning his durability matches his production. This can be a huge leverage point when negotiating guaranteed money in a contract.
Player Value True Guarantees % Guaranteed
Mike Wallace (2011-12, PIT) $60,000,000 $27,000,000 45.00%
Larry FItzgerald (2009-10, ARI) $113,000,000 $27,000,000 23.9%
Pierre Garcon (2010-11, IND) $42,500,000 $13,100,000 30.82%
Calvin Johnson (2010-11, DET) $113,455,000 $46,755,000 41.2%
Adjusted Regression: 45%

Length of the Contract
The average of our variable receiver contracts came out to 6 years. In terms of spreading out bonus money, the deal should be at least 5 years so we'll go with our calculated average and stick with a 6 year contract.

Value of the Contract
Thomas has produced at an elite level for the better part of 3 seasons now. Barring a late season injury, or a complete melt-down by the Broncos offensively, the sky appears to be the limit for the 26 year old. Our base numbers warranted a contract with an annual average salary of $14.7M. But with overbearingly strong prime percentages in every major statistical receiving categories, this number soars to a record high.

Spotrac's Prediction: 6 years, $129,250,000

Average Salary: $21,541,666
Guaranteed Money: $54,900,000

Concluding Thoughts
Obviously we're aware this is a huge number. The current highest average paid wide receiver in the league is Calvin Johnson at $16.2M per year. The long and short is that Thomas' current pace of production is nearly 50% better than any of our variable receivers at the time of their signing. Should he continue this trend, there's no reason to believe he won't command the highest average salary in the league at the position.

In terms of guaranteed dollars, the percentage has been rising with recent signees (Vincent Jackson 47%, Julian Edelman 48%, Mike Wallace 50%). Thomas will warrant anywhere between 40-50% should he remain healthy through the 2014 season. It should also be noted that the expiring contract of Dez Bryant should play well into the process for Thomas who are likely to find similar paydays after the season.

Can the Broncos afford this? Currently Denver has $108 million allocated to 37 players on their 2015 salary cap. While this seems relatively low, keep in mind that the Broncos have 9 current starters set to hit free agency after the season - meaning there are plenty of holes to fill. The receiving hole may be the biggest need though, as Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and TE Julius Thomas are currently playing out expiring contracts. Denver will likely need hometown discounts from both of the Thomas' to keep this gang together, while it's not assumed that Welker remains in the fold past 2014. It's fairly safe to assume that a deal around $18 million per year, with close to 50% guaranteed is a likely get for Demaryius - in Denver or not.

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