The news broke this morning that Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas will hold out. Reports indicate he wants to make $20 million per season, making him the highest paid receiver in NFL history.
On the surface, that sounds bad considering Thomas isn’t even widely looked at as THE best receiver in the NFL. But, he is in the conversation for one of the five or six best.
If you asked me to rank them, I would currently have him 5th in the league behind the likes of Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham.
However, much like the free market, the NFL has to adjust for inflation. As the NFL continues to increase the salary cap for teams ($9 million increase in 2019), that means the contracts will be increased accordingly.
As of now, Beckham inked the highest contract for a receiver at $18 million per year last year. The cap goes up, so do the contracts.
So as far as Thomas goes, he should fight for every single dollar of that deal. If he doesn’t, he ends up playing for below market value in two years.
A great example of this is Julio Jones who is playing for $14 million per year. Meanwhile, Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins, who are both not even close to top 10 receiver status, are playing for $16.2 and $16 million respectively.
When it comes to paying out contracts in the NFL, there are many factors to consider.
One thing I constantly talk about with my buddies is positions. Not all positions are created equal. In football, there are positions that hold more water in the win column and receiver just isn’t one of them.
Sure, it is a commodity to have a top flight receiver, but there are far more valuable skills and positions on a football field such as quarterbacks, offensive line, corners and pass rushers. However, the market determines the pay scale. Right now, it is a good time to be a receiver because of the money being dished out.
That being said, it would be foolish for the Saints to not pay someone like Thomas because of course there are exceptions to the rule. Thomas is one of them.
Three factors outside of his position that you have to look at are his current earnings, age and production value.
With Thomas being a second round pick, his rookie deal has been an absolute bargain for the Saints. His current contract has $2.6 million in guaranteed money and a total of $5.1 million, which I assume he will paid out all of it based on production.
I loathe fans who complain at players bargaining for more. It is part of the business. This next contract will likely be the biggest payday of his career. Given that he is near the top of the game at his position, he owes it to himself to bargain for every dollar. Especially, since the Saints were not inclined to pay him what he should have been making.
Of course, that is not the Saints fault. There is a rookie scale for a reason. But, he would absolutely be doing himself a disservice not going for a heftier price tag. He is 26 and just entering his prime. It is not like they would be giving a 28 or 29 year old receiver a massive contract.
At 26, his production value has been nothing but elite.
- 2016 – 92 receptions (9th), 1,137 yards (9th), 9 TDs (T-7th)
- 2017 – 104 receptions (3rd), 1,245 yards (6th), 5 TDs
*Led team in playoffs rec, yards and (T-1st) TDs
- 2018 – 125 receptions (1st), 1,405 yards (6th), 9 TDs (T-10th)
*Led Team in playoffs rec, yards and TDs
He has continued to improve every year and has certainly helped an aging but still great QB in Drew Brees.
Last season, he was the only receiver or tight end with the Saints who caught more than 35 passes. Let that sink in. He literally caught 90 more balls than someone who is not a running back. He had nearly 1,000 more yards than the next person who is not a running back.
Clearly, he is not just an important part of the offense. He is a vital part.
On top of that, he had a historical season catching 85% of his passes as a number one receiver. That catch rate ranked the best among players (247 cases) who were targeted at least 145 times in a season since 1992. The next best was Wes Welker when he caught 77.2% of his targets.
This certainly is not a Le’Veon Bell situation where a receiver is asking for quarterback money and a massive guarantee. He is asking for the going rate for a top flight receiver.
Ultimately, if the Saints are willing to give between $18-19 million, go up one million. The initial asking price for Thomas was $22 million while the Saints initial offer $18 million. Meeting in the middle at $20 million seems fair, which is what Thomas is now reportedly asking for.
All this being said, there is no way this deal won’t get done over a mere million. That is chump change in the NFL market. Michael Thomas will eventually sign for the $20 million per season that he is asking.
Don’t overreact. This is all part of the process with the NFL.
Assuming Drew Brees retires sooner rather than later, that is plenty of money off the books so they can have funding to re-sign the likes of Alvin Kamara (2021), Marshon Lattimore (2022) and Ryan Ramczyk (2022) who will all undoubtedly get large contracts as well.
Whoever is next to take over the quarterback position certainly won’t command top dollar, no matter what. With all of the top quarterbacks locked up through 2022 or 2023, that leaves the Saints with Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill or a drafted QB. None of which will eat a large portion of the team salary.
All of the quarterbacks who come up before then are either old and past their prime, didn’t live up to current contracts or will not be leaving their current team barring anything crazy happening.
The Saints are fine. This won’t cripple them. If it does, they can trade him like they did Brandin Cooks. Someone will undoubtedly take him.
Take a breath. Relax. It is all part of the game. Go get yours Michael Thomas. You earned it.
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