It looks like the Saints are going to escape this off-season with a vast majority of their team intact. One of the most lethal bullets dodged by the Saints’ front office during this off season was running back Pierre Thomas’ contract situation.
Thomas has spent the last two years serving as the Saints starting running back while being paid the league minimum and entered this off-season as a restricted free agent. The Saints offered him a $1.7 million tender in an attempt to keep him.
While the $1.7 million and a 2nd round compensation pick proved to be a large enough price tag to successfully keep other teams from stealing Thomas away, it did little to satisfy Thomas with his current contract situation.
No contract in the NFL is guaranteed. Every year front offices across the league cut players and ditch their contracts for a variety of reasons. The players, on the other hand, are expected to remain silent and honor their deal no matter what happens.
Thomas and his agent, Lamont Smith, have spent most of the off season trying to convince the Saints that it is time to pay their starting running back like a starting running back. I could not agree more.
Each of the past three years, Pierre Thomas has played for the league minimum salary. The past two years, Thomas has lead the team in rushing producing more yardage than first round draft choice Reggie Bush.
Since donning the black and gold, Thomas has been paid a total of $1,131,350 yet has been expected to carry a significant amount of the workload.
Thomas has touched the ball 483 times (rushes + receptions + returns) during his three years with the Saints. He has gained a total of 4,084 yards (rushes + receptions + returns). This equates to Thomas earning $277 for every yard he has gained or being paid $2,342 every time he touches the ball. While that seems like quite a bit of money, keep in mind that Reggie Bush got paid more than that… in college.
Although these numbers seem absurd compared to the average blogger’s salary, when placed in the proper context and compared with other NFL running backs it becomes clear that Thomas has been drastically out performing his contract and the Saints have been getting quite the bang for their buck.
Here is the breakdown for the other running backs in the NFC South over the course of their respective careers:
Pierre Thomas – $2,342 per touch - $277/yd
Reggie Bush – $36,585 per touch - $6,712/yd
DeAngelo Williams – $7,648 per touch - $1,245/yd
Jonathan Stewart – $10,814 per touch - $1,921/yd
Michael Turner – $24,114 per touch - $4,021/yd
Cadillac Williams – $15,333 per touch - $3,762/yd
The numbers above put in perspective exactly how underpaid Pierre Thomas has been throughout his career. For both his workload ($/Touch) and his performance ($/Yard), Thomas has not been compensated on nearly the same level as his counterparts in the division.
As if this was not enough frustration for Thomas, he watched as the Saints made his teammate Reggie Bush the highest paid running back in the NFL while continuing to bargain and negotiate with Thomas.
Thomas has remained a professional. He has not publicly complained nor criticized the Saints’ front office, he has attended some voluntary workouts, and he has signed his tender to ensure that he is a member of the 2010 Saints.
Over the past three years, Pierre Thomas has given the Saints much more than they bargained for when they signed the undrafted free-agent out of the University of Illinois.
It is now time for the Saints to stop bargaining and reward Pierre Thomas with a contract which adequately reflects his dedication and his value to the Saints’ organization.