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Saints RB Thomas signs tender, but will still pursue a better deal

NEW ORLEANS -- Pierre Thomas signed his one-year restricted free-agent tender offer from the New Orleans Saints on Monday, but he wants to negotiate a longer and more lucrative deal before training camp opens at the end of July, his agent said.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis confirmed the signing. Thomas' agent, Lamont Smith, said the club's leading rusher from 2009 remained unsatisfied with his contract situation.

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"It's still our desire to work out a long-term deal because Pierre deserves security," Smith said.

Smith said Thomas was not expected to attend the Saints' voluntary organized team activities this week but added that Thomas was in New Orleans and likely would attend the club's championship ring ceremony at a downtown hotel on Wednesday night.

The Saints tendered Thomas approximately $1.7 million for one season, but if Thomas hadn't signed by midnight Monday, the club would have had the right under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement to reduce the offer to about 110 percent of his 2009 salary, or slightly more than $500,000.

"We feel like we had to preserve our options under the system," Smith said of Thomas' decision to sign the tender.

Thomas led the Saints in yards rushing (793) and rushing touchdowns (six) last season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Thomas also had 302 yards and two TDs receiving.

Thomas also scored a 38-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota and added a 16-yard score on a screen in New Orleans' Super Bowl triumph over Indianapolis.

His 1,095 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage in 2009 compared favorably to Reggie Bush's 725 yards and eight TDs. Bush is slated to earn around $8 million next season.

Thomas was an undrafted free agent in 2007. He earned $285,000 in his first season, $370,000 in his second and $460,000 in this third.

Thomas has led the Saints in rushing the past two seasons.

Smith has said that Thomas, who will be 26 in December, must land a significant contract now because of an increasing tendency among NFL teams to devalue running backs after they turn 30.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press

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