BREAKING: Michael Thomas has reached an agreement with the Saints on a $100M extension that includes $61M guaranteed and makes him the NFL's highest-paid WR, league sources told @AdamSchefter. pic.twitter.com/fPA6u9gnfO— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 31, 2019
Michael Thomas did not report for the start of New Orleans Saints training camp as he looked for a new contract. Set to make just $1.148 million this season on the last year of his rookie deal, New Orleans’ best receiver sought some job security and big bucks. It did not take long for Thomas to get both of those things, as he and the Saints came to an agreement on a five-year, $100 million extension with $61 million of that being guaranteed. The deal makes Thomas the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.
Taken in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Thomas burst onto the scene right away, starting 12 games his rookie year while racking up over 1,100 yards with nine touchdowns. He has done nothing but continue to improve in each of his first three seasons in the league, culminating in last year’s franchise-record 125 catches. With over 1,400 yards and nine TDs in 2018, Thomas’ 84.5 percent catch rate was the highest of any NFL wideout since 2001.
Thomas’ meteoric rise in the NFL is incredibly impressive, but not all that shocking. While he was never the focal point of a run-heavy offense at Ohio State, he was without a doubt the Buckeyes’ most consistent receiver on the 2014 National Championship team and again in his final season in Columbus in 2015, totaling over 1,600 yards and 18 TDs in his collegiate career. His transition to the league has been flawless, and he has already become one of the best wide receivers in the entire NFL.
Ranking No. 81 in last season’s NFL top-100, Thomas jumped all the way to No. 13 in 2019.
“If Justin Fields is anywhere near the player he was projected to be coming out of high school [...] and the offensive line, which will feature four new starters, gels in fall camp, this Ohio State has all of the tools to be a top-five team”
There are a ton of questions surrounding Ohio State in 2019. They have a first-year head coach in Ryan Day, who has also put together an almost entirely new defensive coaching staff. They also have a new quarterback in Justin Fields, with four new starters along the offensive line. However, despite all the question marks both on and off the field for the Buckeyes, they are still being considered one of the top teams in college football this season.
CBS Sports released its preseason top-10 rankings on Monday, and Ohio State is sitting comfortably at No. 5. Clemson is the obvious No. 1 as the defending champs, followed by Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia and finally, Ohio State. Michigan is the only other Big Ten team inside the top 10, with the Wolverines coming in at No. 7.
247sports director of scouting Barton Simmons gave his breakdown of the ranking, agreeing with Ohio State at the No. 5 spot. Simmons believes that Ryan Day will do a fine job of replacing Urban Meyer, and he will do so with a roster that is filled to the brim with talent. Simmons went as far as to say the Buckeyes may have the second-most talented roster in all of college football — behind just Alabama — when it comes strictly to recruiting rankings. While he notes that there is some unproven potential in Fields, he believes that Day will put him in a good position to be successful.
“He’s going to put up stupid numbers. It’s not all to do with Justin Fields, but how about the weapons around him? [...] He’s going to spread it around to weapons. Highlight plays and video-game numbers will be put up in Columbus, Ohio.”
Speaking of Justin Fields, while he is obviously unproven as a starter at a big time college football program, the potential is certainly there for him to be a superstar for the Buckeyes in 2019. Fields is clearly a talented player, recruited as the No. 1 dual threat QB in 2018 and the No. 8 highest rated prospect of all time. However, even outside of his own skill set, the Ohio State offense will have an enormous amount of playmakers around him to ensure that Fields can compete at the highest level as he looks to lead the Buckeyes back into the College Football Playoff.
The wide receiver room is as deep as ever, and filled with some special players. The return of K.J. Hill is huge for OSU, as he pulled in 70 catches for 885 yards and six touchdowns last season, behind only Parris Campbell. Austin Mack is coming off a season-ending injury a year ago, but has some of the sturdiest hands and route running on the roster. Binjimen Victor is a big time red zone threat standing at 6-foot-4, and Chris Olave burst onto the scene as a freshman in last season’s Michigan game. Even deeper on the depth chart, you still have the five-star freshman Garrett Wilson and redshirt freshman Jaelen Gill, who will both likely make an impact on this year’s team.
He will occupy the backfield alongside the returning starter at running back J.K. Dobbins, who with a chance to finally serve as the true No. 1 on the depth chart is primed for a return to form to his outstanding freshman season. The re-introduction of the RPO to the Ohio State offense will certainly help both Fields and Dobbins as the opposition will be left constantly guessing the Buckeyes’ offensive strategy.
Fields is a talented kid, and has all the pieces around him to succeed in 2019.