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More Valuable Franchise Tag: Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant?

March 2, 2015 • Ben Heck • Free Agency, Front Page

The franchise tag deadline has come and gone (4 P.M. ET this afternoon), and a number of teams used the unrestricted tag on a player they’d like to retain for the 2015 season while working on a long-term deal:

Broncos: WR Demaryius Thomas
Chiefs: LB Justin Houston
Cowboys: WR Dez Bryant
Dolphins: TE Charles Clay (transition tag)
Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Patriots: K Stephen Gostkowski

Among of the few interesting non-tagged players after the deadline includes Detroit’s DT Ndamukong Suh, Denver TE Julius Thomas, Dallas RB DeMarco Murray and Packers WR Randall Cobb. Those four guys are now set to test the market when free agency begins on March 10.

But the interesting topic I’d like to bring up following the franchise tag deadline is simple. Who is a more valuable wideout to retain for their respective team: Dez Bryant in Dallas, or Demaryius Thomas in Denver?

If you take a look at the numbers, it could be argued that it’s a toss-up. Both Bryant and Thomas were key components in their quarterback’s passing attacks over the last few seasons, and will continue to do so.

Both entered the league the same year (2010), will be entering their sixth season in ’15 and are separated by less than a year in age (Bryant is 26, Thomas is 27). And on top of that, they’ve each broken the 1,000-yard barrier with 10+ touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, and combine for just two missed starts over that span––both were missed starts by Bryant in 2012.

It’s unbelievable when you compare notes on these two guys, as they’re even very similar stature: Bryant is 6’2″/225 and Thomas is 6’3″/229 (according to Pro-Football Reference, at least) and have very strong hands. Bar none, they’re the best target on their respective team and still have four to five incredibly productive seasons ahead of them.

So that’s why it could be argued that this debate is a toss-up. But if I were forced to make a decision on which franchise tag was more-deserved, I’d take Thomas, simply because we don’t know how many more seasons Peyton Manning has left in him (my prediction is 2015 turns out to be his last), and he can’t afford to lose Thomas if he’d like to make one last run at another ring. Not to mention Dez has a bit of a shaky past, and if I were to invest this sort of money in one guy, I think I’d rather gamble on Thomas.

Either way, we’ll be seeing these guys return to Denver and Dallas and continue to put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers in the passing game for Manning and Tony Romo.

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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