On the final day for deals to be done for teams that tagged players with the franchise tag, there was some question as to what some teams would do. Demaryius Thomas and Denver were reportedly not talking and Dez Bryant and the Cowboys were at odds as well. It seemed like both would be taking a hard stance against the teams that employed them, dead set on trying to force their respective teams to give them new deals. There was a buzz everywhere after Dez Bryant said he would not show up if he did not have a new deal. In Thomas’ case, there was deafening silence all around. But at the eleventh hour, it seems that both teams got it done and got their star wide receivers new deals. Both players agreed to five-year deals worth $70 million. But the difference in the guaranteed money had Dez Bryant making $1.5 million more than Thomas. Fans of the Cowboys and the Broncos can now breathe a sigh of relief as these two impact players are now signed for years to come. But when you take a look at both deals for both these players, there should be no way that Dez Bryant is making the same amount of money that Demaryius Thomas is.
Both Thomas and Bryant are very explosive players. They can run and catch with the best of them. But Dez definitely has the most to deal with in Dallas. Since he has been in Dallas, he has been looked at as the X-Factor for their team as a receiver. Of course it may have taken him two seasons to grow into the role, but he is now the best offensive player the Cowboys have. Standing at 6’2” and 220 pounds, Bryant has terrorized opposing secondaries the last three seasons. And every year, he has increased his touchdown production. But what makes Dez Bryant so impressive over the last two season is the conditions under what he has done it with. No one can name someone that takes attention away from Dez on the outside. In fact, if you take a look at last season, there was not many weapons that scared teams. Jason Witten is still a solid tight end, but his production has declined over the last three seasons. Other than Witten, the Cowboys have Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley. Neither one of these guys is good enough to at least draw some defensive attention on their own. But due to the favorable matchups they receive from defenses week in and week out, they are able to produce on the field. Both Beasley and Williams got favorable matchups each week due to the attention that Dez Bryant drew each and every week. And if it weren’t for him being such a factor, the running game would not be as effective either. Defenses have to shift their attention to Dez each game and bracket cover him. And despite that a Cowboys offense that focused more on the running game this season, Bryant still was dominant and he still put up great numbers. Imagine what Dez could do if he had a weapon on the opposite side of him that could scare opponents each and every week. He would be even more dangerous.
As for Demaryius Thomas, he is definitely in a great position. He is playing with one of the best quarterbacks of all-time and has the benefit of playing in the thin air of Denver, which opponents always have to adjust to when they get there. Thomas started off slow his first two seasons just like Bryant, but once Peyton Manning stepped into the fold, Thomas took off as a player. He has recorded three seasons over 1,400 yards receiving, including last season where he had a career-high 1,619 yards receiving. But when you take a look at his scenario over the last few years, he has definitely had it better. Thomas has been targeted more by Manning than Bryant has by Romo. With more chances to catch the ball comes more receptions and more yards as well. For example, last season, Thomas was targeted 184 times compared to Bryant only getting 138 targets. But other than the actual targets, Thomas also benefitted from having one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL last year. Julius Thomas was an animal at the tight end position last year. The last couple of seasons, Thomas has had to be accounted for in the passing game. And even though he has not been lighting it up in the yards department (only one season over 700 yards), he has been lighting up the scoreboard with 24 total receiving touchdowns the last two seasons. And not to be forgotten, the Broncos acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders last season and he made an immediate impact on the team. He registered his best season ever as a professional. He had over 1,400 yards receiving and he had 9 touchdowns. Witten, Beasley and Terrance Williams combined only had 300 more yards receiving than Sanders did by himself. That ought to tell you what kind of offense that Thomas was in. And with the weapons he had and the focus on the passing game, it was evident that Thomas was in the better position to succeed and did so. Imagine if Bryant was playing in an offense like the Broncos and had weapons that could take attention away from him. If he did, Dez would routinely get over 1,700 yards receiving if not more than that.
Bryant and Thomas both may have got their deals, but Dez Bryant got short-changed in this one. With limited weapons around him and a focus on the running game, he still was able to have a great season. Demaryius Thomas, on the other hand, is playing with one of the greatest quarterback of all-time and has way better offensive talent around him to help him succeed. Bryant has a tougher job to do each and every week and he undoubtedly deserved at least $50 million guaranteed. Thomas will be missing one of his receiving buddies in Julius Thomas next season, so it will be interesting to see how he handles receiving more attention in the passing game and how he fares statistically when he sees the best defensive back on the other team and potentially more bracket coverage than he has ever faced.