Kirwan: No high hopes for Thomas
"The Saints have refused to negotiate with us," Lamont Smith said. "... Pierre made the NFL minimum (salary) the last three years and was their leading rusher the last two. He made all the plays necessary. ... He's done all the right things. He played his (first) contract out."
However, Thomas' 1,095 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage in 2009 compared favorably to Reggie Bush's 725 yards and eight TDs from scrimmage. Bush is slated to earn around $8 million next season.
Thomas' displeasure with his contract is the reason he skipped the Saints' mandatory minicamp last weekend and has remained absent for voluntary practices. Because Thomas hasn't signed his tender, he cannot be fined for missing mandatory practices and could become a training-camp holdout if the two sides don't start moving closer in negotiations.
"The reality is with running backs, he's in the prime of his career," Smith said of Thomas, who'll be 26 in December. "Running backs have some of the shortest careers in the NFL and are often let go after they're 30. If he doesn't get a big contract when he's in the prime of his career, then when does he get security?"
The Saints generally don't discuss ongoing negotiations, and when asked to respond to Smith's comments, general manager Mickey Loomis said only that the agent "is correct that we are far apart."
According to the Times-Picayune, the Saints consider Thomas as a role player, so they offered him a deal that compares to recent contracts given to LaDainian Tomlinson and Thomas Jones. However, Thomas' agent believes Thomas is close to a career breakout.
Thomas led the Saints in rushing yards (793) and rushing touchdowns (six) last season, and he also had 302 yards and two receiving TDs. He then scored a 38-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings and added a 16-yard score on a screen in the Saints' Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.