Broncos lock up Demaryius Thomas for five years

One by one, the league's big-name wideouts are making their money.

Less than an hour after Dez Bryant inked a five-year, $70 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos have struck a deal with Demaryius Thomas, the team confirmed. The contract comes with $35 million fully guaranteed, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, and a $17.5 million signing bonus. 

Thomas' deal largely mirrors the extension netted by Bryant, with both contracts annually exceeding the $12.82 million both wideouts would have made this year through the franchise tag.

It's crystal clear that Thomas and his camp were waiting for Bryant's deal to go through after Denver and the pass-catcher had not spoken in more than a month. NFL Media's Albert Breer reported the Broncos upped their offer again as Wednesday's deadline neared -- the fifth time they've done so in negotiations.

The deal couldn't come soon enough for Denver, with quarterback Peyton Manning knee-deep in a new playbook minus his star receiver. With Thomas on tap for training camp, new coach Gary Kubiak can install his attack with every big name under contract.

It's a ton of money for a team that could be staring down a rebuilding project once Manning calls it quits, but general manager John Elway has never shied away from sealing up his star players:

Thomas -- who set a single-season franchise record for receiving yards in 2014 -- is well worth the money after three straight 1,400-plus-yard campaigns and a whopping 41 touchdowns in five seasons since Denver made him the 22nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Bryant, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown and A.J. Green have all dominated defenses, but only Thomas can boast of 250 receptions, 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns over the past three seasons.

For all the fireworks between Thomas and Manning, the wideout's most memorable star turn came during his tenure with Tim Tebow. The pair combined for two 100-yard games over the final five weeks of the 2011 campaign before Thomas exploded for 204 yards and the winning 80-yard score against the Steelers in an unlikely AFC wild-card win. 

With Manning under center, though, Thomas has grown into one of the NFL's premier playmakers, second only to Larry Fitzgerald in playoff receiving yards per game since the merger.

After Wednesday's deal with the Broncos, Thomas can rejoin Manning in time for one more shot at Denver's elusive Super Bowl dream.

*The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses recent news from around the league, including the new contracts for Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. *

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