Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints star Michael Thomas wants big money, but he’s in a waiting game. Here’s why.

Open Mike.

That’s what I call fourth-year New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas who always seems to work his way free from defenseless defensive backs in man coverage and is able to “sit down’‘ uncovered in zone coverage.

Unlike some receivers who quarterback Drew Brees must “throw open,’‘ or be led into an open passing lane to catch a pass, Thomas usually runs free as a bird.

His stats through his first three NFL seasons bear this out: 321 catches for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Last season, he led all NFL wide receivers with a mind-boggling 85 percent catch rate (125 of 147 targets), with a mere three drops.

In other words, this guy is good, elite good. And with his next contract, Thomas wants to be compensated as such.

According to recent reports, he not only wants to become the NFL’s highest paid receiver but he wants to put a huge distance between himself and say, Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is currently pocketing an average annual salary of $18 million.

According to New Orleans-based sportswriter Jeff Duncan, Thomas’ agent is seeking $22 million per season for his client and hopes to close the deal before the start of training camp July 25.

To which I say good luck.

By the way, Andrew Kessler of Athletes First now represents Thomas, the player’s third different agent since entering the NFL as a second-round pick from Ohio State in 2016.

It seems important to Thomas that he becomes the NFL’s highest paid receiver and the first $20 million receiver, above and beyond pass catchers like Beckham, Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Oakland’s Antonio Brown, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Dallas’ Amari Cooper, among others.

I get it. Thomas is durable, dependable and Brees’ go-to target. Last season, Thomas carried the Saints passing game on his broad shoulders in the absence of a dependable No. 2 wideout and top-shelf tight end. The off-season arrival of free agent veteran tight end Jared Cook may ease Thomas’ burden.

The one knock against Thomas, if there is one, is that he’s not a vertical threat and has yet to score double-digit TDs in a season with career highs of nine twice. That aspect of Thomas’ game is not lost on Saints deal makers Mickey Loomis and Khai Harley at the negotiating table.

Thomas is under his rookie contract through the 2019 season. Make no mistake: Thomas has outplayed his rookie contract and would be grossly underpaid this season at a base salary of sub-$2 million if a new deal can’t be reached. That said, it would behoove both parties to get a deal done sooner rather than later.

My hunch is Thomas is waiting for other receivers to establish the bar before signing off on a deal unless, of course, the Saints push the right button. It may be that Saints officials are waiting other receivers to establish the bar so they don’t run the risk of giving Thomas more money than is absolutely necessary.

Time will tell.

The bottom line is Open Mike believes he is better than everyone else, on the field and when it comes to dollars and $en$e.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at