In the space of two seasons, Michael Thomas’ contract has gone from looking like a good value for an elite player to being an added burden on the New Orleans Saints’ already stretched salary cap. Let’s examine Thomas’ deal and how it looks after the most recent restructure in terms of cap numbers and the Saints’ options in the coming years.
Michael Thomas’ contract details and bonuses
In 2019, Thomas signed a five-year contract extension worth $96.25 million. The deal still sees Thomas as one of the highest-paid WRs in the league. As part of the contract, Thomas received a $20 million signing bonus.
At signing, $35.6 million was fully guaranteed, with a potential $60.6 million in total guarantees during the life of the deal. The Saints and Thomas have restructured the contract three times. In 2020, they converted $10 million in salary into a signing bonus. The restructure saved $8 million in cap space.
Then, in 2021, they converted another $11.6 million into a signing bonus. The second restructure saved $8.7 million in cap space. In 2021, New Orleans converted a further $14.565 million in salary and roster bonus to a signing bonus.
Thomas still has four years remaining on his contract
When Thomas signed his extension ahead of the 2019 season, he had one more year remaining on his contract. Therefore, his contract was set to run for a potential six years, through to 2024. Entering the 2022 season, Thomas has another three years remaining on his contract. There are also two void years on the deal, but Thomas is set to be a free agent after the 2024 season.
What impact does Thomas’ deal have on the Saints’ salary cap?
Thomas is set to count $13.1 million against the Saints’ salary cap in 2022. He has just a $1.035 million base salary and a $200,000 workout bonus. The remainder comes in prorated bonus money. $4 million from the original signing bonus prorates across the first five years. Then, there is another $7.813 million in prorated cash from the two restructures.
In 2023, Thomas’ salary cap number is set to rise to $28.263 million. His salary for 2023 will be $15.5 million. Thomas is also due to have a cap number of $27.513 million in 2024, with a base salary of $18.5 million. There are then two void years at the back of Thomas’ contract. Both contain $2.913 million in prorated bonus. When the contract voids in 2025, Thomas will count for $5.826 million against the Saints’ salary cap that season.
What options do the Saints have with Thomas’ contract?
Heading into the 2022 NFL offseason, the Saints had a couple of options with Thomas. They could have released him or traded him and eaten the dead money. However, they went down the restructuring route, changing the picture massively. Thomas is now virtually guaranteed to be on the roster in 2023.
If the Saints were to release or trade Thomas before June, they would be left with a huge $37.265 million in dead money. They could trade or release him after June 1. Doing so would leave $11.813 million in dead money in 2022 and a further $25.452 million in 2023. That would only represent a $1.235 million saving on his current cap number, so it doesn’t seem worthwhile at this stage.
The real debate comes next offseason. Again, the price is hefty if they release or trade Thomas before June. Doing so would leave a $25.452 million dead money change and save the Saints just $2.811 million. However, after June 1, it starts to make a little more sense. New Orleans would carry $11.813 million in dead money, saving $16.45 million in cap space. They would then have $13.639 million in a cap hit in 2024.
If the Saints decide to roll through 2023 with Thomas, the 2024 offseason seems a possible time to part ways. Without any further restructures, releasing or trading Thomas ahead of June would leave the Saints with $13.639 in dead money. That would represent a cap saving of $13.874 million. A release or trade after June 1 would save $19.7 million and leave them with $7.813 million in 2024 dead money and $5.826 million in 2025.