Such is reality after the Denver Broncos on Tuesday agreed to trade the 30-year-old wide receiver to the Houston Texans — a move that many, including Thomas, foresaw.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver will receive a mid-round draft pick (reportedly a fourth-rounder and swap of seventh-rounders) as part of their deal with Houston, whom they face Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The trade comes hours before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET league deadline.
The trade is no surprise to anyone involved, as Thomas previously admitted “my time here is coming up” and Broncos coach Vance Joseph revealed Monday that “I’ve talked to DT probably five times about this subject and he’s been a great pro. Obviously being a veteran player, he gets the business side.”
Indeed, Thomas understood.
“It’s football, man. It’s a business,” he said on Oct. 22. “That’s what happens. It’s happened before. I never thought it would happen to me, but I’m just like everybody else. I’m am athlete and it happens once you get older.”
But others don’t, at least initially. This stings both his now-ex teammates and an adoring fan base, which rocked their No. 88 jerseys for the better part of this decade.
Scroll through below for the best reactions to Thomas’ departure.
VON MILLER IS SAD
And so is Emmanuel Sanders.
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This one brought me to tears. 5 years my brotha we gave the city all we had. You know the love runs deep between us. No matter how they tried to divide us we stayed solid thru it all. Our ties are bigger than football, this is a life bid. La familia. I’m gonna miss you. Love you my brotha. Htown y’all got a real one. 🤘🏾 #ThunderandLightning #88+10closestthingtoperfection #oneofthebestduosofalltime
Two of the longest-tenured Broncos coming into Tuesday, Miller and Thomas have experienced division crowns, Super Bowls and Pro Bowls together. They were excellent teammates on the field and better friends off it. It’s a sad day for everybody associated with, employed by, or revolved around Dove Valley.
AS IS BRONCOS COUNTRY
The team’s 2010 first-round pick, Thomas is among the most accomplished receivers in franchise history. He finished his 125-game Broncos career as the club’s second all-time leading receiver, with 665 catches for 9,005 yards and 60 touchdowns. Only Rod Smith notched more receptions (849), yards (11,389), and TDs (68). He’s a no-brainer future Ring of Fame inductee.
Of course, what would a high-profile trade of a beloved player be without criticism of Denver’s embattled head coach? Given the choice, Broncos fans much prefer Vance Joseph get his walking papers than Thomas, though it’s merely wishful thinking. While it’s a matter of time before John Elway cans Joseph, he might give him until the end of the year.
WARM RECEPTION AT MILE HIGH?
Demaryius Thomas’ first game with the Texans will come against … the Broncos. At Mile High. Talk about a
#narrative. Hopefully Broncos fans show Thomas the respect befitting a homegrown stud. He certainly deserves a standing O, at least once, regardless of the damage he does against his now-former team. What’s right is right, folks.
EMBRACE THE TANK
The Broncos became “sellers” after Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which dropped them to 3-5. Mathematically, they’re still alive for a possible postseason berth, but historically, odds of playing meaningful January football are now slim. So, instead of “buying,” Elway is stripping down the roster and getting value for older, expensive veterans while he still can.
THOMAS’ CAREER-DEFINING PLAY
Thomas will be best remembered for his game-winning catch-and-run from Tim Tebow in the 2011 playoffs. It’s an epic play that will forever be lionized as Thomas — then a sophomore NFLer — put his name on the league map. Every Broncos fan knows exactly where they were that evening, and they’ll never forget. Can you feel the magic?!
A DENVER LEGACY
Thomas’ best years were birthed in the Manning Era (2012-15), during which he logged five-straight 1,000-yard campaigns and 41 scores as Peyton’s primary pass-catcher. After Manning’s 2016 retirement, and the subsequent carousel of wanna-be franchise QBs, Thomas’ production has noticeably dipped. He finished with just 949 yards last season and has been phased out of Denver’s most recent outfit, totaling just 36 receptions for 402 yards and three TDs in 2018.
The clock began ticking on Thomas in late April, when his clone, Courtland Sutton, was drafted in the second round. Sutton has since become a reliable target for Case Keenum, essentially rendering his mentor obsolete. That — combined with Thomas’ age (31 in December), relative lack of production and high salary — made him a prime trade chip.
REBUILD, NOT A REBOOT
The Broncos are entering a wholesale rebuild, whether some want to admit it or not. They’re likely to have an entirely new coaching staff and possibly a starting quarterback in 2019, along with projected roster turnover in the offseason. Elway has slowly but surely worked to unload higher-priced players in favor of younger, cheaper replacements. It’s smart business and foresight by Denver’s resident czar.