Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints star Michael Thomas is underpaid, but he chose the diva move with a holdout

Saints fans march through city to boycott Super Bowl

New Orleans Saints fans still aren't over the officiating in the NFC Championship, as the took to the streets to protest the Rams taking on the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
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New Orleans Saints fans still aren't over the officiating in the NFC Championship, as the took to the streets to protest the Rams taking on the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

Friday marked Day 1 of Michael Thomas’ holdup, er, holdout.

After months of unsuccessfully trying to quietly negotiate a new, over-the-top contract, the talented New Orleans Saints wide receiver did not report to the first day of training camp and has taken his case to the court of public opinion.

In his mind, actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap. The time has come for Saints officials to back up the Loomis armored truck and show “Open Mike” the damn money.

Lots of it.

When that happens, No. 13 will happily join his teammates at training camp. I suspect it will happen sooner than later, though Thomas is not in any danger of getting Wally Pipp-ed.

According to multiple reports, $20 million annually will seal the deal for Thomas and make him the game’s highest paid receiver, at least until Julio Jones or somebody else comes along and becomes top dog at the position.

I’m not taking sides here. I see both arguments. Saints officials are trying to be fiscally responsible and Thomas has outplayed his rookie contract after three seasons and wants to be compensated as the pass-catching stud he has become.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Thomas also runs the risk of suffering a career-ending injury by participating in camp under his current deal. So I get it.

That said, I wish Thomas had picked up the cell phone he stashed behind the goal post protective padding in the Girod Street end zone inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last season and reached out to General Manager Mickey Loomis one more time, instead of airing the dirty linen.

It’s such a diva move.

Yes, Thomas is grossly underpaid. No one would argue that point. He is due to make a base salary of $1.14 million this season. But, he has two years remaining on his current deal.

I caution Team Thomas to tread carefully. Remember what happened to other talented New Orleans Saints pass catchers such as Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks who proved to be expendable and were traded away in the primes of their careers?

I’m not saying Thomas is going down that path. Not yet anyway.

But the longer Thomas remains AWOL, the better chance stuff can happen.

Know this: The last time a Saints player under contract missed the first day of training camp happened in 2002 under third-year coach Jim Haslett and first-year GM Mickey Loomis. Starting quarterback Aaron Brooks was entering the fourth and last year of his rookie deal — one he struck with Green Bay as a fourth-round pick in 1999 — and due to make a base salary of $450,000.

Brooks made less than money than backups Jake Delhomme ($563,000) and Jeff Lewis ($550,000).

Brooks ended his holdout after three days and eventually reached a new deal once Loomis signed the team’s remaining draft picks and extended Haslett’s contract.

Message to Open Mike: You made your point. Now do your job and get back to work.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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