Published November 20, 2014
The Denver Broncos will kick off training camp Sunday without any holdouts.
First-round draft pick Demaryius "Bay-Bay" Thomas agreed to a five-year deal with more than $9 million in guarantees on Saturday, just in time to take his conditioning test so he can suit up when the full squad works out for the first time Sunday morning.
Thomas, a big wide receiver from Georgia Tech, was the first player taken by the Broncos in the NFL draft although he's been overshadowed by their other first-rounder, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who was selected 25th overall, three spots behind Thomas.
Thomas missed the three days of workouts for rookies and players coming off injuries this week while his agent, Todd France, and general manager Brian Xanders put the finishing touches on a deal that could be worth more than $15 million if he becomes a major contributor in coach Josh McDaniels' offense.
The Broncos needed big, athletic wide receivers after trading two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins just before the draft and they got two in Thomas (6-foot-3, 224 pounds) and third-rounder Eric Decker (6-3, 218) from the University of Minnesota.
Despite playing in Paul Johnson's triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, a system that's considered ill-suited for the NFL, Thomas was selected ahead of the more polished Dez Bryant, who went to Dallas at No. 24.
In the former Yellow Jackets' deep threat, McDaniels trusts he's found Marshall's lookalike but not act-alike.
Despite three straight 100-catch seasons, Marshall's antics on and off the field made him a chronic headache for the organization. His four seasons in Denver were filled with drama and distraction along with run-ins with the front office and law enforcement.
A year ago, McDaniels' first training camp was dogged by Marshall's insubordination and holdouts by running back Knowshon Moreno and linebacker Robert Ayers, last year's pair of first-round picks.
Neither Moreno nor Ayers ever caught up for the time they missed. Moreno injured a knee in the first preseason game after ending a nine-day holdout and never hit his stride, failing to record a single 100-yard rushing game while Ayers is still in search of his first sack in the NFL.
Much more is expected out of those two this year, and the Broncos are hopeful this year's draft class has much more of an immediate impact, too.
McDaniels and starting quarterback Kyle Orton have both talked about adding more of a downfield passing attack and Thomas and Decker figure to help now that they've recovered from foot surgeries that might have scared off other teams in the draft.
Decker tore a ligament in his left foot in a game against Ohio State in October and Thomas broke his left foot doing drills just before the NFL combine. Both have fully recovered.