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SmashMouth 07-31-2010 08:05 AM

Pierre Thomas hopeful of a new contract
Pierre Thomas seeks to bridge gap in contract dispute with New Orleans Saints |

Yes, Pierre Thomas deserves a long-term, more lucrative contract.

Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas has led the team in rushing the past two seasons, but because he is an unrestricted free agent, he had to settle for a lesser contract. Because of there is no collective bargaining agreement, he could be in the same predicament next season. ‘What can you do, except bite your lip and move forward,’ Thomas said.
Yes, the New Orleans Saints are within their right to have Thomas right where they have him.
Yes, they're both right.
Sometimes it's not that easy to find a bad guy. Sometimes there's no way to not see and agree with where each side is coming from, and why it maintains its stance.
If I'm Thomas, damn straight I'd want to have been paid plenty, yesterday. For sure I'd believe I've earned more than the one-year, $1.7 million deal he signed with the Saints this summer as a restricted free agent. That's a point even the franchise probably won't dispute.
The two-time leading rusher for the Super Bowl champs works for chump change in a league where players have to cash in ASAP, because in a snap, yesterday's leading rusher can become today's comeback player from a torn ACL.
If I'm the Saints, hell no, I wouldn't lose sleep over giving Thomas the tender offer, and no more. Even his side knows the sum was determined by the collective bargaining agreement. Realistically, the Saints could make the argument that the undrafted player isn't irreplaceable, and legitimately, they could fear that because the shelf life of a running back is so short, the four-year veteran might be nearing his expiration date.
That's business.
And that's what Thomas and the Saints are engaged in as he attempts to extract a longer, more lucrative deal while not possessing a negotiating hammer to wield.
He was a restricted free agent this year, and because there's no collective bargaining agreement in place next year, Thomas, a four-year veteran, will be subjected to the terms of the new agreement, whatever they are. Conceivably, when a new deal is struck, it could stipulate he will be a restricted free agent again next year.
"It's something we're going to work out," Thomas said Friday morning, after the Saints' first workout. "I'm here for right now, and I'm going to give it my all this year. I'm concentrating on the season. As soon as I start getting out on this field, practicing with my teammates, all I'm focused on is what I can do to get better and what I can do to help my team get better.
"That's how it is sometimes. What can you do, except bite your lip and move forward?"
"He might be pissed off," General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "I understand that. I've said more than once that for a player, his contract is a personal issue, and from the club perspective, it's a business issue. I always try to be sensitive to that. But I appreciate that he's here. It's noticed. We don't take it for granted.

Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas gets a fist-bump from fullback Heath Evans after a nice pass and run during the first day of training camp Friday in Metairie.
"We can hopefully negotiate a contract that we both feel good about. There's always a difference of opinion. What you hope is that the difference of opinion is small and narrow, and you can find ways to bridge the gap. But at this point, we've had a larger difference of opinion. It's really as simple as that.
"I respect his opinion, respect the opinion of his agent. As with any negotiation, both sides make some pretty strong and valid points. (But) we haven't been able to come to terms yet."
Now, where is there to assign blame?
The team? The Saints aren't a charity, and therefore have a bottom line to honor. They haven't yet had to fork over a king's ransom, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, and rightfully might believe that, in the worst-case scenario, they can find another back to do Thomas' job.
Or the player? Even though Thomas doesn't have eye-popping statistics - 1,418 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 276 carries the past two seasons, and 586 receiving yards and five touchdowns - he is being dwarfed financially by another running back, Reggie Bush, whose yardage and touchdowns the past two seasons don't equal Thomas' production -- even when Bush's punt-return totals are included.
Thomas is a player who will play on just about any special teams unit and might have signed for as much because he wants to show good faith, as because his offer would've shriveled to around $500,000 if he hadn't signed by midnight June 14.
"You would like a new contract. You would like to work something out, because I do want to be here for many years," Thomas said. "But it's a tough business. You're not going to always get what you want, but hopefully, it works out for the best.
"I think I should be just treated fairly. Whatever's fair is fair. (But) who knows what's fair? We'll just see how everything goes."
Hopefully, it will go as Thomas wants it to. He's perfectly justified in wanting more security, perfectly sensible in believing he has done enough to warrant that.
But the franchise, too, isn't out of line in its thinking. Not at all.
"I don't ever want (negotiations) to become contentious," Loomis said. "I respect a lot what every player on our team does, respect the fact that they put their physical well-being on the line and that a career in the NFL has a fixed and short life span. But we've got to make decisions that impact our entire team. Any one contract, any one guy, any one deal has a lot more ramifications than just that player for our team.
"From a player's perspective, he's concerned about himself, and he's concerned about the personal security. I get that. But I don't have anything bad to say at all about Pierre Thomas. In fact, I have nothing but good things to say about him. From my standpoint, I appreciate the fact that he's here and he's working hard and he's being a professional about this."

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