Jacksonville will target Julius Thomas in free agency
With Manning possibly coming back and Demaryius Thomas looking to get paid the talented Broncos are likely to lose some very talented players to free agency due to a lack of cap space. The most likely weapon Denver will lose is tight end Julius Thomas.
Thomas did not have as impressive numbers this year with less than 500 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was quite the dip from his 2013 campaign of 788 receiving yards and the same amount of touchdowns. Thomas may have not garnered as many yards and receptions as other elite tight ends but he did tie with Gronkowski and Gates for most touchdowns by a tight end in 2014. Thomas is looking to use that key stat for big pay day heading into 2015.
Thomas is possibly the best tight entering free agency and there are a ton of teams who would love to have his talent on their roster. Most notable of possible suitors for Thomas are the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mike Klis of the Denver Post and Cecil Lammey of ESPN have both reported that Jacksonville will be looking to nab the talented tight end. It makes sense with Jacksonville having the most amount of cap space. It also helps that the 2011 collective bargaining agreement forces teams to spend 89% of the salary cap in cash over two distinct four-year periods (2013-16 and 2017-20). A good investment for teams are tight ends when you consider how their pay compares to wide receivers.
Last year tight end Jimmy Graham attempted to be considered a wide receiver when the Saints used the franchise tag to retain his services. When Graham was tagged as a tight end he received a one year salary of less than $8 million rather than over $12 million dollars he would have received had he been considered a wide receiver. If Jacksonville (or another team) signs Thomas they will likely get a quality receiver of a fraction of the cost of hiring someone who plays the wide receiver position. Rob Gronkowski ranked 15th for receiving yards and tied for 4th for receiving touchdowns among all NFL players yet his salary doesn't break $10 million until 2018. Look at Calvin Johnson who had less receiving yards than Gronkowski in 2014 yet made over twice as much money as Gronk.
Jacksonville has gone all in on Blake Bortles and surrounding him with weapons should be their number one priority. Hopefully they give him weapons like Thomas and other talented players like Randall Cobb or Michael Crabtree. Then we can all see whether Bortles has what it takes to make the leap. If he flounders the Jaguars will end up with a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft, something that Jaguar fans have become far too accustomed to.
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