(TNS) — Demaryius Thomas' nine-year career with the Broncos ended Tuesday when he was traded to the Houston Texans along with a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a fourth and seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft. Broncos general manager John Elway informed Thomas of the decision Tuesday morning.
The Texans (5-3) play at the Broncos (3-5) on Sunday.
"Demaryius had an incredible run here and we can't thank him enough for everything he's meant to the Broncos," Elway said in a statement. "He developed into an elite player over the years, establishing himself as one NFL's most productive, consistent and reliable wide receivers...Although it's tough to end this chapter, we're excited about the talent we have at the wide receiver position and wish Demaryius all the best with the Texans."
During a conference call with Denver-area reporters Tuesday morning, Texans coach Bill O'Brien expressed his respect for Thomas.
"I've been watching him for a long time, since he was at Georgia Tech and since he's been in the NFL," O'Brien said. "Excellent athletic skills. Great hands. Really good route runner. Very smooth route runner. He's a tough guy to defend."
The Texans were looking for receiver help after Will Fuller sustained a season-ending torn ACL in last week's win over Miami.
The subject of much trade speculation over the last nine days, Thomas became semi-resigned to being moved following Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. That defeat, which dropped the Broncos to 3-5, likely served as a final go-ahead for Elway to move Thomas, giving Denver an extra draft pick and allowing rookie Courtland Sutton to play more.
Thomas, 30, finishes his Broncos career as a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time second-team All Pro selection and one-time Super Bowl champion. He was the longest-tenured Broncos player on the roster last week (125 regular season games).
Statistically, Thomas is the second-best receiver in Broncos history.
— Third in team history in catches (665) behind receiver Rod Smith (849) and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe (675).
— Second in receiving yards (9,055), behind only Smith (11,389).
— Second in touchdown catches (60), behind only Smith (68).
—And first in 100-yard receiving games (36).
Thomas signed a five-year, $70 million contract in July 2015. His salary cap number jumps from $12.03 million this year to $17.53 million in 2019. The Broncos were unlikely to bring Thomas back next year so they were proactive and received compensation for him.
Per the industry website Over The Cap, the Broncos will absorb a $3,533,334 "dead money" hit in 2019 for trading Thomas, but will create $14 million in cap space.
Thomas caught 36 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns in eight games this year.
Thomas was drafted 22nd overall by the Broncos in 2010, the first receiver selected. Three picks later, the Broncos traded up to draft quarterback Tim Tebow. His career did not take off until late in his second year.
As a rookie, he missed five games because of an ankle injury and his 22 catches were sixth on the team as the Broncos leaned on veteran receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal.
In his second year, Thomas missed the first five games because of a broken thumb sustained in training camp. Entering December of that year, he had only seven catches. But he finished the regular season with 25 catches in five games (two 100-yard games).
Thomas' first star turn came in the wild card playoff game against Pittsburgh. Thomas caught four passes for 204 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to win the game in overtime.
From 2012-16, Thomas was a lynchpin of the Broncos' offense.
Thomas had at least 90 catches and 1,083 yards in five consecutive years, including seasons of 94 catches-1,434 yards-10 touchdowns, 92-1,430-14, 111-1,619-11 and 105-1,304-six in Peyton Manning's four years.
In 10 playoff games, Thomas caught 53 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns.
Thomas' trade leaves 15 players remaining in the organization from the Super Bowl 50 team. The longest-tenured Broncos are now linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris, both in their eighth years.
"I love D.T.," Harris said on Monday. "He's a great teammate and we've had great competition (in practice) for the eight years I've been here. I've won a lot of games with him."