Michael Thomas has reached agreement with the New Orleans Saints on a five-year, $100 million extension that includes $61 million guaranteed and makes him the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.
Thomas is now tied to the Saints for the next six years, through the 2024 season.
Thomas is set to make $1.148 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. He did not report for the start of Saints training camp as he sought a new deal.
Thomas was one of several high-profile players holding out from training camp, including Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys running backs Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ngakoue noticed news of Thomas’ deal and tweeted “well deserved.”
Thomas could become the first in a very expensive set of dominoes to fall, with fellow top receivers like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green and Tyreek Hill also seeking extensions. There was some sense that none of those receivers wanted to sign first, so the others could raise the bar for them. But no one stood to gain more than the 26-year-old Thomas.
Teammate Cameron Jordan tweeted congratulations to Thomas on Wednesday.
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) July 31, 2019
Thomas’ deal marks a 1,700% pay raise for the first-team All-Pro, whose 321 career catches are by far the most in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons. Odell Beckham Jr., who signed with the Giants for around $18 million per year last season before being traded to the Browns, ranks second on that list at 288.
The Saints have never paid a skill-position player more than $10 million per year, which was the size of tight end Jimmy Graham’s extension before he was traded away in 2015. But Thomas, who was drafted in the second round out of Ohio State in 2016, has played a bigger role in New Orleans’ offense than any skill-position player to come before him in the Payton-Drew Brees era.
Last season, Thomas set franchise records with 125 catches and 1,405 yards while catching nine touchdown passes. His catch rate of 84.5% in 2018 was the highest of any NFL receiver since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
No other receiver had more than 28 catches for the Saints last season, and their lack of reliable targets behind Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara really hurt them down the stretch. They signed tight end Jared Cook in free agency to help with that depth issue.
As usual, the Saints will have to get creative with their bookkeeping to fit Thomas under the salary cap and to keep their loaded roster together in future years. They had about $12 million in cap space before Thomas’ new deal, after they also signed All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan to a lucrative contract extension earlier this offseason.
The Saints already have more than $26 million in “dead money” scheduled to count against their salary cap in 2020 because of the way they have structured Brees’ contract. Next year, Brees, backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and guard Andrus Peat are scheduled to be free agents, among others. Then Kamara, guard Larry Warford and linebacker Demario Davis come due in 2021, followed by cornerback Marshon Lattimore and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk in 2022.
ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.