The Denver Broncos need Demaryius Thomas in 2018

If you pay attention to the Denver Broncos at all, you have an opinion on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

The Broncos will have to make a decision regarding the longest-tenured member of their team when the 2018 league year begins on March 14.

When the new league year rolls around, the Broncos will have the option to not pick up the remaining two years on Thomas’ contract. The extra $22.5 million cash, according to Spotrac, that parting ways with Thomas would bring would certainly help as the Broncos look try to get back to their winning ways. That money could be used, in part, to lure a high-priced free-agent quarterback, for example.

But dumping the franchise’s all-time No. 2 receiver in yards and touchdowns is not the right move.

Getting rid of Demaryius Thomas would be a mistake.

If numbers never lie, then Thomas has earned the right to stay in Denver. Since 2012, Thomas has led the Broncos in both receiving yards and receptions every season. He’s started every game in that same time period. Through illness, injury and inconsistency at quarterback, DT has found a way to impact games and fill up the stat sheet.

The numbers also show that Thomas regressed in 2017. He finished the season with 83 receptions for 949 yards and five touchdowns, marking the end of his five consecutive 1,000-yard, 90-catch seasons. To understand why that happened, look no further than the three people that were throwing him the ball.

A good receiver can make people look good, but a receiver is really only as good as his quarterback at the end of the day. Demaryius Thomas is a good receiver, and has been one for six years, but Denver’s quarterback play has been less than favorable over the last two years.

The go-to knock on Thomas is the number of passes he drops. That’s fair. According to Fox Sports, Thomas’ seven drops placed him in a three-way tie for the second-most in the NFL last season. For someone paid as highly as Thomas, seven drops is a bit much. But as a receiver who was targeted 140 times in 2017, there are bound to be a few drops.

To put things into perspective, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, widely considered one of the top to receivers in the league, caught 85 of the 148 balls that came his way in 2017 for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns. He also dropped seven passes. Thomas was targeted 140 times and made 83 receptions for 949 yards and five TDs. Seattle’s Paul Richardson, whom some suggest could be a replacement for Thomas, had six drops on just 80 targets, by comparison.

It’s hard to get a grip on where the Broncos are as a team for 2018 when they don’t have their starting quarterback on the roster. To convince a quarterback to come to Denver in the offseason — if that’s in fact the route they choose to take — they are going to need some bait. Even coming off a down season, there are quarterbacks who’d be licking their chops to come throw the ball to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, not one or the other. Letting Thomas go wouldn’t do them many favors in their quarterback hunt.

If their plan is to draft and play a rookie quarterback — or finally give 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch an unencumbered chance to lead the team — there’s still no real argument for getting rid of Thomas. Whether it be Lynch, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield or any other young QB, the Broncos won’t be breaking the bank with whoever is under center for at least the next two years. Any of those quarterbacks will be made better with Thomas on the field. He’s a big target who’s willing to block downfield, and he can help teach a young quarterback. Sending the offensive team captain packing makes no sense in that scenario, either.

The window is certainly closing, but it’s not shut yet. But getting rid of Demaryius Thomas could be the final nail in the Broncos’ championship coffin.