Michael Thomas has been one of the best receivers in the NFL over the past three years, and now he wants to be paid like it. 

The problem for the Saints is that Thomas doesn’t just want a raise, he wants to turn the receiver market upside down with a new deal that would make him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history. 

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Thomas is seeking a deal that would pay him an average of $22 million per year. To put that in perspective, there’s no receiver in the NFL who’s even making an average of $20 million per year. The highest-paid receiver in the league right now is Odell Beckham, who has a contract that pays him an average of $18 million per season, which means Thomas isn’t just looking to top that number, he’s looking to blow it out of the water. 

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Saints are ready to give Thomas a hefty raise to make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, but it seems they’re not quite ready to meet his asking price. According to the Times-Picayune, the Saints are willing to pay Thomas somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million per season, which means the two sides are about $4 million apart on what they believe Thomas’ average annual salary should be. 

If Thomas is also looking to beat Beckham’s contract in the guaranteed money department, then the Saints are going to have pay him a lot of money up front to get him to sign. Beckham signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Giants back in August that included $65 million in practical guarantees. 

Although Thomas’ asking price might seem exorbitant, it actually makes some sense to go that high, and that’s because the receiver market is about to explode. There are multiple players at the position — including Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Amari Cooper — who will all likely be signing extensions in the next few months. If Thomas were to sign a deal worth $18 million per year, the Saints would be getting a bargain, and that’s because the market could be moving into the $19 million or $20 million per year range when any of those other three guys end up signing their extension. 

No matter what Thomas ends up getting, it will be a substantial raise over what he’s currently scheduled to make. The receiver is headed into the final season of his rookie deal, which will pay him a base salary of just $1.15 million in 2019. Thomas made just $915,000 in 2018, a season where the led the NFL in receptions (125) while finishing sixth in receiving yards (1405) and ninth in receiving touchdowns (nine).

Since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in 2016, Thomas has caught a total of 321 passes, which is more than any other receiver over that span. The only other player who has even hit the 300 mark is Antonio Brown, who caught 311 passes between 2016 and 2018.  

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