New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is currently searching for a contract extension to stay in New Orleans. The team’s second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Thomas has done nothing but produce at the NFL level, starting his career with at least ninety catches in all of his first three seasons. Thomas enters the last year of his rookie contract, with a cap hit of $1.6M this season. For someone who produces as Thomas has thus far, that number is pitiful.
Thomas looks to extend his stay with the Saints, and he wants to get paid for his work. According to multiple NFL sources, Thomas is trying to make $20M per season in his new contract, making him the highest-paid receiver in the league. Even with the early career success that Thomas has seen so far, is he worth the money?
How successful has Michael Thomas been?
Michael Thomas’ early career success hasn’t been matched by any receiver in NFL history. Thomas already has 321 career receptions in just his first three years, an NFL record. He’s averaging 11.8 yards per catch, has scored 23 touchdowns, and is catching an astonishing 77% of his targets. Thomas also set an NFL record for the most receptions in the first two seasons in the league (198), breaking the mark previously set by former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Thomas’ deadly weapon in his arsenal is his comeback ability. His cuts are clear, precise, and unexpected by opposing defensive backs.
Ankle check by Michael Thomas 🤫 pic.twitter.com/AAykIkuQeg
— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) July 29, 2018
Michael Thomas doesn’t just have quickness and crisp cuts. His hands are among the best in the NFL. Last season, Thomas caught 85% of his targets while suffering only 3 drops from his 147 targets. Thomas isn’t just a good receiver. He’s been nothing but a great reliable receiver.
Sean Payton has mostly used Thomas as an X receiver who runs a lot of slot concepts. Thomas’ deep-ball ability isn’t as special as his slot-type tendencies, but his prototypical size (6’3″ 212 pounds) make him more useful as the first option. His lack of a deep ball game in college at Ohio State was the reason he fell to the second round.
Thomas wouldn’t have seen as much success with other teams than he has in New Orleans because of the way that Sean Payton uses him. Not many offenses projected to use him as anything more than a large slot receiver, which drives down his overall market value.
How close are the two sides?
According to Yahoo Sports insider Charles Robinson, the two sides are very close. He tweeted this Monday evening:
On the Michael Thomas contract talks: Sources say the #Saints have offered a deal averaging between $18-$19 million a year. Thomas would like to be the first $20 million wideout in the #NFL. A $20 mil per year average w/ the right structure/guarantees would likely get it done.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) July 23, 2019
The Saints want Thomas back. With legendary quarterback Drew Brees on the last leg if his career, New Orleans wants to keep as many offensive weapons around the franchise as possible for the next quarterback who will pick up the mantle. The fact that they offered as much as they did to Thomas proves that.
Is Michael Thomas worth that type of money?
$20M can lock up an offense in terms of salary and cap space. With franchise quarterbacks starting to move into the $30M per year range, paying Thomas and a franchise quarterback could up to $55M per season, which is close to 30% of the salary cap.
Thomas isn’t the only guy that the team needs to re-sign on offense. 2017 third-round pick running back Alvin Kamara will be looking for a big paycheck next year as well. It all depends on what the Saints plan to do with the quarterback position. They could acquire a first-round talent sometime in the next two seasons and pay a rookie contract for five seasons.
The NFL’s salary cap number continues to leap and bound as the NFL’s income continues to increase dramatically. It appears to be jumping about $10M per year, so maybe these concerns aren’t too valid.
That being said, Michael Thomas is hitting new levels of production in the NFL record books. No one in NFL history has produced as much as Thomas has through his first three seasons. In this offense, Thomas is the perfect fit. I believe that yes, because of the consistency, reliability, and production from Thomas, pay him, New Orleans. This man is special.