Sources: Saints, WR Thomas reach $100M deal

Stephen A.: Thomas' play on the field led to extension (1:27)

Stephen A. Smith contends that Michael Thomas earned his five-year, $100 million extension with his production on the field. (1:27)

Michael Thomas has reached agreement with the New Orleans Saints on a five-year extension worth up to $100 million that includes $61 million guaranteed and makes him the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Thomas is now tied to the Saints for the next six years, through the 2024 season.

Thomas' deal is $19.25 million per year, for a total of $96.25 million, and he will need to reach elite-performance escalators in both 2022 and 2023 to push the total value to $100 million, sources said.

He tweeted a statement later Wednesday to thank the Saints and their fans, adding that his new deal felt "surreal."

"As I sit here and contemplate everything it took to get here, I can't help but smile," Thomas wrote in the tweet. "All the long nights, all the blood sweat and tears to prove to myself I not only belonged, but I could be the best at what I loved to do. ... I can't say I'm surprised but I can say I'm grateful.

"There is no place I'd rather be and look forward to spending my entire career in the black and gold!"

Thomas is set to make $1.148 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. He did not report for the start of Saints training camp as he sought a new deal.

Thomas was one of several high-profile players holding out from training camp, including Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys running backs Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

Ngakoue noticed news of Thomas' deal and tweeted "well deserved."

Thomas could become the first in a very expensive set of dominoes to fall, with fellow top receivers like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green and Tyreek Hill also seeking extensions. There was some sense that none of those receivers wanted to sign first, so the others could raise the bar for them. But no one stood to gain more than the 26-year-old Thomas.

Teammate Cameron Jordan tweeted congratulations to Thomas on Wednesday.

Even LeBron James weighed in on the deal.

Thomas' deal marks a 1,700% pay raise for the first-team All-Pro, whose 321 career catches are by far the most in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons. Odell Beckham Jr., who signed with the Giants for around $18 million per year last season before being traded to the Browns, ranks second on that list at 288.

The Saints have never paid a skill-position player more than $10 million per year, which was the size of tight end Jimmy Graham's extension before he was traded in 2015. But Thomas, who was drafted in the second round out of Ohio State in 2016, has played a bigger role in New Orleans' offense than any skill-position player to come before him in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era.

Last season, Thomas set franchise records with 125 catches and 1,405 yards while catching nine touchdown passes. His catch rate of 84.5% in 2018 was the highest of any NFL receiver since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

No other receiver had more than 28 catches for the Saints last season, and their lack of reliable targets behind Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara really hurt them down the stretch. They signed tight end Jared Cook in free agency to help with that depth issue.

As usual, the Saints will have to get creative with their bookkeeping to fit Thomas under the salary cap and to keep their loaded roster together in future years. They had about $12 million in cap space before Thomas' new deal, after they also signed All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan to a lucrative contract extension earlier this offseason.

The Saints already have more than $26 million in "dead money" scheduled to count against their salary cap in 2020 because of the way they have structured Brees' contract. Next year, Brees, backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and guard Andrus Peat, among others, are scheduled to be free agents. Then Kamara, guard Larry Warford and linebacker Demario Davis come due in 2021, followed by cornerback Marshon Lattimore and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk in 2022.

ESPN's Mike Triplett contributed to this report.