ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Peyton Manning will have to do without his top target this offseason unless the Denver Broncos reach an agreement with Demaryius Thomas on a long-term contract.
The star receiver said Monday that without a deal, he'll skip the team's offseason workouts that begin April 13 and bypass Manning's annual passing camp next week at Duke.
Thomas said he'll stay in Georgia, where he'll continue rehabbing his right ankle, which was hurt Dec. 3 when a teammate stepped on him, hampering him down the stretch.
Thomas echoed general manager John Elway's recent assertion that the goal was to get a long-term deal done "as soon as possible." If the talks do reach an impasse, he said he'd sign the Broncos' $12.8 million franchise tender by the July 15 deadline.
A prolonged boycott by Thomas could hamper the installation of new coach Gary Kubiak's offense that will feature Manning's tactical and timing proficiencies while placing a greater emphasis on the run and two-tight end sets.
Speaking by phone from an XBox "Call of Duty" event in Los Angeles to benefit military veterans, Thomas insisted timing wouldn't be a problem in such a scenario.
"It's three years now that I've been with Peyton, so I feel like we can pick up where we left off," Thomas said. "It's about getting on the field and being on the same page. I'm sure we can get that done as quickly as possible. And I will be in contact with Peyton when it's the right time. We'll handle that between me and him because we know what we've got to do."
Thomas set career highs with 111 catches for 1,619 yards in 2014, when he scored 11 times. Since Manning's arrival in Denver in 2012, Thomas has been his top receiver, catching 297 passes for 4,483 yards and 35 TDs. He's also made the Pro Bowl in all three seasons.
In that three-year span, Thomas has ranked first in the league in yards receiving, second to Antonio Brown in receptions and second to Dez Bryant in touchdowns.
Thomas acknowledged there's a bigger sense of urgency now that the Broncos have been thwarted in their title quest for three years despite going 38-10 under Manning, who just turned 39.
"No one knows if Peyton will play another year after this year, so the goal is to win the Super Bowl," Thomas said. "We're going to figure it out. We're going to do what we've got to do to get that ring."
Manning already will be without Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, one of five starters who bolted in free agency, along with Jacob Tamme and Wes Welker, two of his most trusted teammates. Missing Thomas, one of only three players in NFL history to post three consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 yards receiving and at least 10 TD catches, wouldn't help matters.
Asked earlier this month if it would be problematic should Thomas skip offseason work, Kubiak said, "I don't know. But I just talked to Demaryius. He's in a great frame of mind. That's part of the business. I think he understands that. But he's got a bright future with this organization. I think he knows that and everybody knows that. And I'm just looking forward to him, and us, just getting back to work."
The two other times Elway has used his franchise tag — on Ryan Clady and Matt Prater — the sides reached long-term deals by summertime.
The Cowboys placed their franchise tag on Bryant this month. However, Thomas said he and agent Todd France aren't waiting to see what Bryant commands so that they could gauge the market.
"It doesn't even matter to me," Thomas said. "I'm just trying to get what I think I deserve. I'm worrying about myself, my agent's worrying about me. I don't worry about no other player."
Thomas' team beat Golden Tate's team in the celebrity pro-am at the "Call of Duty" championships over the weekend that included 32 professional teams from around the globe. A donation of $100,000 was presented to help U.S. soldiers transition to civilian careers.
"I thought I was decent at 'Call of Duty' until I tried it against some of these guys," Thomas said.