How Michael Thomas Became the New Orleans Saints’ $100 Million Man

There have been several high-profile holdouts this season including Ezekiel Elliott’s in Dallas and Melvin Gordon’s in Los Angeles. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was on this list of holdouts as well, but he didn’t spend much time on it as the Saints quickly agreed to a new contract extension with their star wideout.

Thomas received a five-year, $100 million extension that will keep him in a Saints uniform through the 2024 season. Some teams might have played hardball with negotiations as Dallas is currently doing with Ezekiel Elliott, but New Orleans understood how much value Thomas brought to the team and didn’t waste any time making him the highest-paid wide receiver in history.

His 2018 season was one for the record books

Michael Thomas had his best season to date in 2018 as he caught 125 passes for 1,405 yards. His 125 receptions led the league, and both the reception total and receiving yards set new Saints franchise records. This is quite an impressive achievement when you consider how many dominant offensive seasons that the Saints have produced under head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.

Thomas also added Saints franchise records for the most receptions in a single game with 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 9th and the most receiving yards in a single game with 211 against the Los Angeles Rams on November 4th.

The 26-year-old also made his way into the league-wide record books. With 321 catches through his first three seasons in the NFL, Thomas blew away the previous record of 288 catches through the first three years of a career held by Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

He received the lion’s share of the Saints’ targets

Michael Thomas and Drew Brees have had plenty to celebrate together since 2016
Michael Thomas and Drew Brees have had plenty to celebrate together since 2016 | Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Drew Brees had 489 pass attempts and 364 pass completions in 2018. Thomas was on the receiving end of 30% of those pass attempts and 34.3% of those pass completions.

Among the Saints wide receivers, the numbers are even more staggering. When you take running backs and tight ends out of the equation, the rest of New Orleans’ wide receivers combined for 1,116 receiving yards with 79 catches on 122 targets. Michael Thomas was responsible for 54.6% of the wide receiving corps’ targets, 61.3% of their receptions, and 55.7% of their total receiving yards.

Brees may still be the captain of this offense, but Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara are clear co-captains at this point.

He deserved this raise after playing so well on his rookie contract

Michael Thomas was drafted by the Saints out of Ohio State in the second round with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. As a second-round pick, he was signed to a modest rookie contract of four years at $5.1 million.

Through the first three years of that deal, making only $1.28 million per season, Thomas has averaged 107 catches, 1,262 receiving yards, and 7.7 touchdowns. New Orleans got exceptional value out of this contract and has been one of the best teams in the NFL over the life of it.

Now, the Saints are returning the favor. Michael Thomas may not be the best wide receiver in the league, but he’s been an absolutely perfect fit in New Orleans. At just 26 years old, Thomas still has his prime ahead of him, and there’s no reason to believe that his chemistry with Drew Brees and this offensive scheme won’t continue over the course of this new deal.