When the Patriots Patriots added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on Tuesday, many New England fans reacted with a predictable pessimism.
It didn’t help that the first contract details that leaked out were that the Patriots signed Thomas to a contract worth up to $6 million. Take out “up to” and that seems like a pretty terrible deal for New England. “Paying $6 million for an aging wide receiver coming off of a torn Achilles? Yikes.”
But that’s why patience is key in reacting to any NFL signing. Often times, the initially reported figures are bloated. NFL players and agents understandably want to make it appear they signed a great deal.
If the Patriots cut Thomas out of training camp, they only would be hit with $300,000 in dead money assuming he reports. That’s his $150,000 signing bonus and his $150,000 reporting bonus. His cap hit is $2,906,250, but even that would be reduced if he plays fewer than 15 games. And it’s entirely possible Thomas plays fewer than 15 games since he’s only four months removed from a ruptured Achilles injury.
If Thomas is cut out of training camp, it would free up over $2.6 million in cap space. And if he actually makes all $6 million, then he would be a bargain. Wide receivers who catch 60 passes for 1,200 yards are valued much higher. If Thomas plays, say, eight games and doesn’t hit his incentives, he would be on the books for $2.2 million.
Unless you really, really care about $300,000 in cap space, then there’s no downside to this deal. It won’t preclude the Patriots from drafting a wideout, and it shouldn’t prevent them from making a deal for a veteran receiver if one becomes available during the draft.
It is a bit unconventional, however, because Thomas doesn’t represent any true insurance or high upside. There’s no guarantee Thomas will come back the same player he was in 2018 before tearing his Achilles. And even before the injury, he appeared to have lost a step. So, you can’t just slot Thomas into the Patriots’ No. 2 or 3 role when healthy.
And since Thomas is 31 years old and coming off of an injury, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll be a 60-catch, 1,000-yard receiver.
But the lack of certainty and upside doesn’t make this a bad deal. When healthy, Thomas should at least be a solid option in the Patriots’ offense, and that’s well worth the $300,000 risk.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images