Broncos place franchise tag on receiver Demaryius Thomas

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Demaryius Thomas (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In a move that was widely expected, the Broncos announced Monday they were placing the franchise tag on receiver Demaryius Thomas, all but ensuring he will be with the team next season.

“This is another step in our efforts to extend Demaryius’ contract and ensure he remains a Denver Bronco,” General Manager John Elway said.

“We will continue working toward a long-term agreement with Demaryius, who is a very important part of our team.”

Teams had until 2 p.m. to place the franchise tag on players.

Earlier Monday, the NFL announced the salary cap for next season will be $143.28 million. The Broncos had carryover cap from last season so their adjusted salary cap for 2015 will be $150,066,000.

By getting the franchise tag, Thomas will make $12.82 million next season unless he signs a longer-term contract, making him the third-highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Only the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson $16.21 million) and the New York Jets’ Percy Harvin ($12.84 million) are scheduled to make more next season.

Thomas, 27, made $3,275,000 last season. He has averaged 99 catches, 1,494 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past three seasons, all with Peyton Manning as quarterback. A decision on whether Manning will return next season is expected within the next week.

Thomas can still test the free agent market because the Broncos used the nonexclusive tag. But a team that signs Thomas would have to come up with a contract so huge that the Broncos would fail to match, then that team would have to compensate the Broncos with two first-round draft picks.