Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas' 2018 campaign, which included 125 receptions, 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns, earned him a $100 million contract extension with the Saints.

You may have heard the news by now.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas reached an agreement on a five-year extension worth $100 million ($61 million guaranteed). It makes him the highest paid wideout in NFL history, and with mega-blockbuster deals such as this one (typically for quarterbacks or edge-rushers), the public always brings up the same debates.

Do football players really deserve all that money? Why should NFL players hold out to add on to the millions of dollars they already make?

Of course they deserve the money. And in a sport where violent contact is the norm, NFL players should be fighting for every penny.

Let’s look at Thomas again. Thomas plays for the Saints, a team that made a deep run to the NFC Championship game last year before being eliminated by the Los Angeles Rams. According to Forbes magazine, the Saints are worth $2.08 billion. That’s a lot of money, and should the Saints continue to be perennial playoff contenders, that number is likely to increase.

Michael Thomas can make that happen. The former Ohio State wideout netted his first All-Pro selection last season and finished the year with 125 receptions, 1,405 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. All that – combined with the fact that he’s only 26 years old – makes him worth locking up for the next six years, and that goes for any weapon that’s gotten a substantial contract in recent times.

Aaron Donald. Khalil Mack. Russell Wilson. 

The National Football League generated about $15 billion last year. The 2019 NFL Draft had around nine million more viewers than a first-round NBA playoff game. I don’t see the NFL losing its crown as America’s most popular sport anytime soon, and so long as its status as a revenue giant continues, all 32 teams will do their best to make sure they’re holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. 

People also seem to forget how fleeting an NFL career is. The average career lasts 3.33 years (six, if you manage to make the 53-man roster Week 1) according to the NFLPA, and a rookie contract for one year is $480,000. Assuming a player makes it to around three years and then retires, they’ll earn a career total of  around $705,000: certainly not pocket change, but nowhere close to the money that Thomas is promised in his contract.

So when a player like Thomas – who puts his health on the line to be a driving force of revenue for one of America’s most bountiful industries – asks for a few more million dollars, don’t call them whiners or ungrateful.

They’re only doing their job, and they deserve every cent they can get.

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells. Contact hime at [email protected].

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.