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Devil’s Advocate: Did the Saints make a mistake paying Michael Thomas too early?

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Recent history suggest that when the Saints are left to set the market for a position they tend to overpay.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

He wants 22 million....pay the man - was my angle the entire time the Saints and Wide Receiver Michael Thomas were going through contract negotiations.

No one on the Saints roster deserved to be rewarded handsomely more than Thomas after a record breaking three years in the league that saw him catch more passes (321) than anyone else in NFL history....HISTORY

Not Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, or Deandre Hopkins, but Thomas.

So the question I’m posing here has nothing to do with should “Cant Guard Mike” have been payed or did he earn it, but simply did the New Orleans Saints get the best deal - this on the heels of a Stephen Jones quote that was in direct response to the contract Thomas had just signed and vaguely refers to the Cowboys negotiations with receiver Amari Cooper.

“We can’t push the issue unless we want to be a market-setter,’’ Stephen Jones said on KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM. “And we’re damn sure not going to be a market-setter because of all the things that go with being a Dallas Cowboy”

”We want our players to feel good about their contracts. But at the same time, we don’t want to do things that are out of line because we can’t afford to be that way.

Let to my own devices I can translate this as, we want to pay our guys but there is also a privilege that comes along with being a Cowboy that’s equivalent to some of the guaranteed money you’d receive in a “market setting contract”

Can’t argue with that logic. He then went on to detail exactly why they handle business in this manner.

“When we save money, whether it’s with Dak, whether it’s with Zeke, whether it’s with Amari, it’s not saving Jerry and I a dollar. It’s just money that’s going to another player.’’

The key phrase in this is “going to another player” that I want to focus on so I’ll ask the question now.

Should the Saints have waited for another team to set the wide receiver market?

While you ponder that lets go back to last year when the Saints were in search of a safety to compete with Vonn Bell for snaps opposite Marcus Williams. Said search lead them to the Senior Bowl where they met with an Old NFC South Nemesis in Kurt Coleman that they quickly signed to a 3 year deal worth up to 18 million with about 6.2 guaranteed.

Like this year the Saints were the 1st team to dip their proverbial toe in the water as they immediately set the safety market by dolling out 6.2 million up front to a 29 year old safety who’d been cut to save the Panthers 5.25 million.

Plenty of us argued the logic in the move but going over the numbers in detail leads to a small discovery that ends up being the difference for a lot of teams during the off-season.

With regards to guaranteed money only one other safety got more than Coleman up front and it was Tyrann Mathieu with 7 million, a far superior player than the former Panther. To further flesh this out the next closest player to Coleman in his tier, Marcus Gilchrist, only received 3.8 million guaranteed.

Using those figures you can deduce that the Saints over-payed for Coleman by about 2.4 million when left to be the team that sets the market while other organizations limbo beneath it and save money.

Well what’s 2.4 million you ask?

It’s possibly the difference between securing a Jimmy Graham level talent vs settling for a Ben Watson vet minimum level talent. Regardless of how you feel about Graham’s decision (which was over money) you can’t convince me that the Saints scheme + Drew throwing him the ball, and Payton calling the plays, doesn’t get more than the 2 TD production Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers got from him.

Sure we weren’t getting 100 catch 1200 yards Graham but that’s not what we needed. He could have just been a high level red-zone option on a team that couldn’t score points down the stretch - something that proved to be too tall of a task for a 37 year old Watson and Dan Arnold, a 23 year old UDFA converted wide receiver doing his best Tight-End impression.

NFL: NFC Championship Game-Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, I’m not here to sell you on hypothetical’s but the point I’m making is that recent history suggest that when the Saints are left to set the market for a position they tend to overpay, and not having a couple million here and there can be the difference between landing a talent you can win because of vs settling for a talent(s) that you have to win in spite of.

Overpaying doesn’t have to be by some astronomical amount (which I doubt the Saints did here) but as my case states - even the smallest difference in cap money to spread around could alter your ability to pay those “other players” with potential to be difference makers.