NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have made one long-term contract offer to Pierre Thomas since the Super Bowl, and the value was not close to what the club's leading running back was seeking, Thomas' agent said.
"The Saints have refused to negotiate with us. They've given us one proposal," agent Lamont Smith said Wednesday. "Pierre made the NFL minimum (salary) the last three years and was their leading rusher the last two. He made all the plays necessary. ... He's done all the right things. He played his (first) contract out."
The Saints generally do not discuss ongoing negotiations, and when asked to respond to Smith's comments, general manager Mickey Loomis said only that Smith "is correct that we are far apart."
Thomas, who signed a three-year contract with the Saints as an undrafted rookie in 2007, is a restricted free agent. The Saints tendered him a one-year offer of about $1.7 million. Because the period when Thomas could sign more lucrative offers from other teams has passed, the Saints have Thomas' rights for 2010.
Thomas wants a longer extension worth far more than the lone multiyear offer New Orleans has made so far, which was the reason he skipped the Saints' mandatory minicamp last weekend and has remained absent for voluntary practices.
Thomas led the Saints in yards rushing (793) and rushing touchdowns (six) last season and also had 302 yards and two TDs receiving. He then scored a 38-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the NFC championship game against Minnesota and added a 16-yard score on a screen in New Orleans' Super Bowl triumph over Indianapolis.
His 1,095 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage in 2009 compared favorably to Reggie Bush's 725 yards and eight TDs from scrimmage. Bush is slated to earn around $8 million next season.
Smith declined to specify what Thomas expects to be paid, but he said the figure is not in the realm of the more than $8 million per year that St. Louis star running back Steven Jackson could earn over the life of his six-year contract he signed in 2008.
Smith would not specify what the Saints had offered Thomas so far, but when asked if it was as much as the three-year, $11 million deal the Philadelphia Eagles recently reached in March with fullback Leonard Weaver, Smith said, "No."
Because Thomas has not signed his tender, he cannot be fined for missing mandatory practices and could become a training camp holdout if the two sides do not start moving closer soon.
"The reality is with running backs, he's in the prime of his career," Smith said of Thomas, who'll be 26 in December. "Running backs have some of the shortest careers in the NFL and are often let go after they're 30. If he doesn't get a big contract when he's in the prime of his career, then when does he get security?"