The New Orleans Saints will begin training camp without the services of one of their best players. According to multiple reports, wide receiver Michael Thomas will not report to camp on time as he attempts to leverage his way into a contract extension.
From Inside Training Camp: The #Saints will begin training camp without one of their best players, as WR Michael Thomas is a holdout. He’ll stay away until he gets his blockbuster extension. pic.twitter.com/CwtFSIHBvg— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2019
Per Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson, Thomas is looking to become the first wide receiver in NFL history to sign a contract that carries an average annual value of $20 million per year, while the Saints have been offering a deal averaging between $18 and $19 million per season.
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
A second-round pick out of Ohio State, Thomas has been spectacular through his first three NFL seasons, posting lines of 92-1,137-9 in 2017, 104-1,245-5 in 2018, and 125-1,405-9 in 2018. His 125 catches last season led the NFL, and his 85 percent catch rate was the single best catch rate among the 247 player-seasons since 1992 where a player was targeted at least 145 times -- and it was not particularly close. (The next-closest was Wes Welker's 77.2 percent catch rate in 2007.) He has quickly become Drew Brees' most trusted target and one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
Holding out for the largest wide receiver contract in the league makes sense from Thomas' perspective, as he has been extremely underpaid so far in his career. At the moment, Odell Beckham Jr.'s, five-year, $90 million deal that averages $18 million per season and contained $65 million in practical guarantees is the top deal at the position. Given that it's been a year since Beckham signed and the cap has gone up once again, Thomas seems justified in looking to reset the market. What remains to be seen is whether the Saints are willing to meet his price.