Michael Thomas agrees to 5-year, $100M extension

The New Orleans Saints' WR1 got P-A-I-D.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Saints and star receiver Michael Thomas reached a five-year, $100 million contract extension, per a source informed of the deal. The deal includes $61 million in guarantees, added Rapoport.

The star receiver sat out the start of Saints training camp in hopes of getting a new contract. He's the first player holding out -- a list that includes Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Yannick Ngakoue and Trent Williams -- to earn a big, long-term extension. Thomas is now good to go for the 2019 season.

The 26-year-old also now sits atop the WR market, surpassing Odell Beckham's $18 million-per-year average.

No Saints player deserved to be paid more than Thomas.

The nephew of Keyshawn Johnson has been the catalyst for Drew Brees' passing attack since he entered the league in 2016.

Thomas broke the record for receptions in his first three seasons, hauling in 321 tosses and compiling 3,787 yards with 23 TDs. In 2018, Thomas' 85-percent catch rate (125 catches on 147 targets) topped the league, and he generated 75 receiving first downs, third-most in the NFL.

A 2016 second-round pick, Thomas was set to enter the final season of his rookie contract, set to make $1.148 million -- chump change compared to his worth. His new $100 million better aligns with his importance to the Saints' offense.

Last season, Thomas compiled 125 receptions for 1,406 yards and nine TDs. Those 125 catches were 44 more than the next Saints player (RB Alvin Kamara), 90 more than No. 3 (TE Benjamin Watson), and 97 more than the next closest wide receiver (Tre'Quan Smith).

Where would the Saints' offense have been without Michael Thomas? Not in the playoffs, that's certain.

Thomas' influence on the Saints' offense is flabbergasting. According to NFL Network analytics analyst Cynthia Frelund, the WR led the NFL in most first downs on plays when the game was within one score (20) and no other receiver had a higher off-ball impact than Thomas (off-ball impact is defined as forcing the defense to account for the player even when he does not have the ball, such as by drawing double teams or the opponent's best defensive back, thereby creating opportunities for others in the offense). In layman's terms: In the clutch, Thomas is ether catching first downs, or helping create them by pulling defenders his way.

One of the most dangerous slant runners in the NFL, Thomas has been Brees' go-to playmaker, security blanket, and only consistent receiver. Brees-to-Thomas on a quick slant has become one of the most difficult plays to guard in the NFL.

Since entering the league in 2016, Thomas has more receptions than anyone in the NFL, per NFL Research.

Even with all the production and accolades, Thomas is still an ascending talent who is just entering his prime. These are the players teams should be paying.

After years of his play outperforming his pay, Thomas' monumental deal underscores the truth of his importance to New Orleans, and, more importantly, his standing as one of the best receivers in the league.

The question is now whether the likes of Julio Jones or Amari Cooper will top Thomas' contract and swipe the "highest-paid receiver" tag before the start of the 2019 campaign.

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