A big new contract for the Pro Bowler Michael Thomas will end his training camp holdout and could set a lucrative market for several other receivers seeking new deals.
Thomas agreed to a five-year extension with the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday with $61 million in guaranteed money, according to multiple news media reports. The contract makes him the N.F.L.’s highest paid wide receiver.
Thomas, 26, had not reported to camp while seeking a contract with numbers similar to those of top-earning receivers such as Antonio Brown of the Oakland Raiders and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A second-round draft pick, Thomas played his first three seasons under a rookie contract that paid him about $1 million a year.
N.F.L. stars are usually eager to get off their relatively miserly rookie deals and claim the bigger money that top veterans can bring in. Under the latest collective bargaining agreement, rookie deals for first-round picks last four years with a team option for a fifth. And new contracts cannot be negotiated until after a player’s third year.
The pass rusher Khalil Mack helped start the new wave of players pressing for better deals, holding out last season and forcing the Raiders to trade him to the Chicago Bears, who rewarded him with $90 million in guaranteed money.
Receiver Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys, a three-time Pro Bowler, is in the final year of his rookie deal and could be seeking numbers not far from Thomas’s. Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs is in a similar situation. In mid-July, the N.F.L. decided not to suspend him after accusations of child abuse.
Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons, who led the league in receiving yards last season, makes a base salary in the $12 million to $13 million range, but wants an extension. He has said he is negotiating with the team and will not play any preseason games.
Thomas was selected to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. In 2018, he was Drew Brees’s favorite option, leading the league in receptions with 125. Only Marvin Harrison, Brown and Jones have caught more in a season. No other Saints wide receiver last season caught more than 28.
LeBron James was one of those who congratulated Thomas on his payday.
Victor Mather covers every sport, no matter how small.
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