I’d be completely lying and also deceiving the readers here if I didn’t confess that my first thought upon reading this was that the highest paid WR in the NFL now makes the same as a sixth man in the NBA. That’s how astronomical the contracts have become on the hardwood. But I digress from the jump.
Michael Thomas, a fairly unheralded (2nd round pick) Wide Receiver out of Ohio State just became the NFL’s most paid receiver a mere three years into his career. This past year, the big, rangy target (6’3) caught 125 balls for over 1,400 yards and found the end zone 9 times. And it’s the catches, along with a more derived characteristic we’ll get into later, where you really see #13’s value. He rarely drops a ball that comes his way (I think he literally had three or four drops last year) and gives his gracefully aging, but aging nonetheless, QB a large, ultra-reliable target to throw the ball to.
In terms of the contract itself, Thomas’ $20,000,000 yearly average puts him above Beckham, Brown, Green, and Evans in terms of big Wide Receiver deals. Overall, all positions included, I’d guess this would put him in the top-20, above some eyebrow-raising names but below most elite QBs and some perennially nasty pass rushers. The deal includes $61,000,000 guaranteed, so going by yearly averages the Saints can consider cutting bait after three years without feeling horrible about themselves.
I don’t think they will.
That’s the beauty of Michael Thomas. Apart from the 125 catches, a 1,400/9 yearly stat line is excellent but maybe not eye popping. I believe Julio Jones had over 1,700 yards last year (to go along with his 2 TDs)(just kidding Julio). I also know, via recent fantasy football research, that a young man by the name of Tyler Lockett caught 10 TD passes last year, so Thomas’ 9, while a fantastic number, doesn’t wow you in necessarily.
But he is so. Goddam. Consistent. That is what the Saints are committing to. They are aren’t dumping a ton of money into a player who will go awwwfffff a couple of times a year for a few years. They are paying a premium for a player that will, week in and week out be one the most, consistent Wide Receivers in football. In looking at my fantasy line up from last year, I see Thomas hit:T
The 90 yard mark 6 times
The 70 yard mark 10 times
The 5 catch mark 12 times
The 10+ catch mark 4 times.
I know the scoring could improve, and I’m guessing it will, but basically he gets it done. Add this to the fact that he is a legit deep threat (remember when he torched Marcus Peters, one of the games best CBs, for a 72 yard catch and run?), he is only 26, and that off the field he’s been no trouble so far (knock on every wood) and this is the exact kind of guy I’d want my team to spend this kind of money on.
Anyway, what will be interesting to see is what this means for the next wave of talented, productive Wide Receivers. Juju Smith-Schuster (UFA in 2021) and Tyler Boyd (free agent in 2023 after his 4-year extension) are names that come to mind. Hell, if he has a bonkers year Mr. 99 in Madden, DeAndre Hopkins, could decide the deal he signed about two years ago is weak compared to his contemporary Thomas and demand that Jamal Murray money (kidding). Either way this really table sets for the next wave of skill position players.
So congrats to Michael Thomas for securing the bag. And to Drew Brees for having a top-5 target for his remaining seasons. Maybe there’s still one miracle left in Music City.