Stud Saints receiver Michael Thomas received the new contract he was hoping for during his holdout from training camp on Wednesday. His new salary tops out at just under $20 million per year over five years as he becomes the first non-quarterback to earn a contract with a value over $100 million. The Saints locked down Drew Brees’ No. 1 guy for the next half-decade.
While Thomas is an excellent receiver in his own right, it’s hard to argue he’s the very best the league has to offer. That honor belongs to division rival Julio Jones, who, as it turns out, is also looking for a new contract. The Falcons’ front office and owner Arthur Blank have been unusually transparent in their public statements about their intention to sign the superstar wideout to another new deal. The reason it hasn’t gotten done yet is that Jones signed off on a restructured contract last offseason in late July, and must wait a full calendar year before signing an extension.
With Thomas the last star wideout to receive a new deal, the market is set, and Jones is about to make some huge money. Jones’ salary is currently set at $9.6 million this year, while Thomas will make $19.5 million. More importantly, when Jones restructured his deal last year, his contract ended up at about $47 million guaranteed. Thomas received $61 million, a yearly average of $12 million in guarantees per season. As the superior receiver, we can reasonably expect Jones to receive equal or greater value to the reported numbers.
It’s worth noting that, unlike Thomas, Jones has two years left on his contract as opposed to one, and it’s unlikely he signs anything more than a three-year extension. Thomas is making all that money over five years, so the numbers will be different as far as the salary goes. But the guarantees is what matters the most in NFL contracts, and Jones will receive some outrageous numbers in that department.
A new contract for Jones may look something like a three-year, $60 million extension with $45 million guaranteed at signing. It doesn’t have the same effect as seeing nine digits in the contract details, but it’s more guaranteed money per year. It stacks up similarly to Antonio Brown’s extension he signed after his trade to the Raiders, which is valued at $51 million over three years with $30 million guaranteed. There’s a legitimate argument that Brown is the best receiver in the league right now (with health being his edge over Jones) but the longtime Falcons wideout comes with none of the off-field and locker room issues attached to Brown.
Fifteen million in guarantees per season would be very steep for a wide receiver, given Brown and Thomas got $10 and $12 million per year this offseason, respectively. But when Jones is healthy, he’s the physical embodiment of dominance when it comes to receivers. If anyone deserves to re-set the market after it’s been set twice by his counterparts, it would be Julio Jones.