NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints and leading receiver Michael Thomas have agreed on a new five-year, $100 million contract, his agent said Wednesday.
Andrew Kessler of the agency Athletes First, who joined colleague David Mulugheta in negotiating the deal with the Saints, said the contract pays Thomas about $61 million in guaranteed salary and bonuses.
The agreement, first reported by NFL Network, brings to an end Thomas’ training camp holdout that spanned five practices.
The Saints had a scheduled day off on Wednesday and Thomas was expected to join practice on Thursday.
Currently, Thomas’ average annual pay of $20 million represents a new high for NFL receivers, eclipsing the $18 million per year paid to Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr.
Last season, Thomas ranked first in the NFL in catches with 125, sixth in yards receiving with 1,405 and tied for 10th with nine touchdowns.
Thomas has established himself as an elite receiver with 321 catches for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons.
But other top NFL receivers, including Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Dallas’ Amari Cooper, are nearing the ends of their current contracts and could be in line for similarly lucrative extensions.
Thomas was entering the final season of his rookie deal and was due a little more than $1.1 million. Cooper entered training camp in the final year of his deal, but hasn’t held out. Jones is under contract through 2020.
The sticking point in the Thomas negotiations had less to do with the structure of the deal than the average annual value. The Saints wanted to give themselves wiggle room under the NFL salary cap to also negotiate extensions with a number of other promising young players whose contracts will expire in coming years, such as running back Alvin Kamara and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
“We’re going to do a deal that we feel works for us regardless of what other teams may or may not do,” Saints’ general manager Mickey Loomis said last week, when Thomas failed to report for camp. “I understand (Thomas’) thinking. He wants to be paid the value that he perceives himself.”
Thomas plays in an offense run by record-setting quarterback Drew Brees and designed by coach Sean Payton, who has presided over one of the NFL’s most productive offenses for nearly a decade and a half.
Brees has overwhelmingly thrown Thomas’ way in recent seasons.
He has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first three seasons since New Orleans made him a second-round draft choice out of Ohio State.
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