Updated: February 19, 2015, 7:05 PM ET

By
Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway made it official Thursday at the NFL’s scouting combine. The Broncos will put the franchise player tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas if no long-term deal can be worked out in the coming days.
“If we can’t get something done, yeah, we’ll tag Demaryius,” Elway said. “Our goal is to get something done with Demaryius … that market is changing, that wide receiver market is changing, too, but the bottom line is we want Demaryius to be a Bronco.”
While the Broncos and Thomas’ representatives have had the framework of a five-year deal on the table at times over the past year — the team is posed to use the franchise player tag on him before March 6.
Free agency officially opens March 10, and teams can begin to negotiate with prospective free agents on March 7. Teams can designate franchise players between February 16 and March 2. The designated franchise player gets a one-year guaranteed contract for the average of the five largest contracts at the player’s position. Last season, the franchise player salary at wide receiver was $12.312 million. It is expected to rise this year to the $12.7 million to $12.9 million range.
Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas are the team’s highest-profile players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Demaryius Thomas is second in the NFL with 28 100-yard receiving games in the regular season and postseason combined, including 10 100-yard games this past season. Seven of those came in consecutive weeks. His 226 yards in the Broncos’ Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals is a single-game franchise record and his 1,619 yards receiving this past season also set a single-season franchise record.
After a rookie season slowed by injuries — he broke his left foot in a pre-combine workout in early 2010 — Thomas had a 32-catch season in 2011 as the Broncos ran a read-option offense with Tim Tebow at quarterback. But since¬†Peyton Manning’s arrival in 2012, Thomas has played himself into the league’s elite at the position.
Demaryius Thomas has had three consecutive seasons with at least 92 receptions, 1,430 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He is only the third player in league history to have three consecutive seasons of at least 1,400 yards receiving and at least 10 touchdowns. Marvin Harrison and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice are the others.
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