Now that the game's best tight end has gotten paid, Julius Thomas must be licking his chops as he gets ready to enter his walk year. Broncos general manager John Elway knows this, and is telling Thomas to hold his horses. He's good, but he's not that good.
"Even though Julius had a tremendous year for us, he's only [played] 23 games," Elway told USA Today on Thursday. "We want Julius to be a Bronco for a long time and we think he has tremendous upside, but he's not at that level."
Elway said he is open to talking to Thomas' representation during training camp and the preseason about a new contract, but he won't negotiate during the season.
Thomas broke out in 2013, catching 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will make $645,000 in salary this season.
Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, although he did play in two more games than Thomas. There is reason to believe Thomas will get better, but yes, he is not in Graham's league at the moment. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is the only other TE who can be considered on that lofty perch.
But that's no big deal to us. Thomas doesn't need to be Graham; he is a stud tight end in his own right, and worthy a third-round pick in re-draft leagues.