As veteran’s report to Saints camp, it was reported this morning by Ian Rapoport that Saints star Wideout Michael Thomas will holdout from Training Camp until his extension is complete. Last week Charles Robertson of Yahoo Sports mentioned that the team and First-Team All-Pro were less than $2 million apart barring structure, guarantees, and incentives. But should this holdout be cause for alarm? Not at this juncture, no.
While this is going to force the Saints into a negotiation timetable they don’t often venture into, usually trying to complete these thing before camp begins or holding off until the end of the season a la Brees, and will cost Thomas some money along the way, this is not an example of a player that simply wants their money. Thomas is in the works to become the highest paid Wide Receiver in NFL history and the first ever to average $20M per year. That makes his situation a little more specific than simply being a player that wants to be paid. It makes sense that Thomas would want to protect his assets (himself) going into camp rather than risking injury while in the midst of a historic negotiation.
Some will look at this as a greedy move by Thomas but he has every intent on working towards a mutually beneficial contract that pays him like he has produced over the first three years of his rookie deal. Thomas is only the sixth NFL wide receiver to open his career with three straight 1,000 yard receiving season, has become the first and second leading single-season receiver in catches in franchise history, broke the franchise single-season receiving yards record last season, and have the most catches in a player’s first three season in NFL history among other accolades. He is also the first Saints wide receiver to make the First-Team All–Pro list outside of Michael Lewis who did so a a return specialist in 2002. Not to mention that Thomas did all of that averaging until $1.28M per year. He has every reason to not risk injury in the middle of this contract getting worked out.
It would be surprising to see these talks go on beyond training camp as the longer the negotiation goes on, the more the Saints might have to pay him to keep him in New Orleans. Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and somehow Tyreek Hill will all be looking to go north of at least $18.5M in their own contract soon. If the Saints are intent upon keeping Michael Thomas around and have stated that they are comfortable making him the highest paid WR in NFL history, they need to figure it out quick before that bar continues to raise. Keep in mind too that total money isn’t the only part of this equation. How much will be guaranteed? What’s the structure like? Are there additional incentives that could get him paid up to $22M? There are a lot of details to work out.
For those reasons, ringing the alarm on this holdout might not be worth it just yet. Both sides have every reason to get this done as soon as possible to avoid complicating matters further. Makes sense that they would want to avoid that by wrapping this up quickly.