Updates from Thursday, Mar. 20
New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas' two-year contract extension will save the team about $1.4 million in salary cap space for 2014, according to a source.
Thomas' 2014 cap number is down to $1.57 million. His cap figure was set to be $2.9 million before the extension.
The New Orleans Saints' running back situation seems somewhat unsettled entering the 2014 NFL season, but one constant will remain in the form of Pierre Thomas, who inked a two-year extension on Wednesday.
Thomas' agent, Lamont Smith, first reported the news:
PT will remain a Saint. 2 year extension. Congrats to the Saints and PT. Time to fly.— Lamont Smith (@CLamontSmith) March 12, 2014
The team later confirmed the move with an official announcement:
Thomas also spoke about the deal on his Twitter account:
Glad to be back in the black & gold!! #WhoDat— Pierre Thomas (@Pierre_Thomas) March 12, 2014
Thomas was the Saints' most consistent producer in the backfield last season as he led the team with 549 rushing yards and added in 77 receptions for 513 additional yards. Even so, his future in New Orleans seemed bleak prior to Wednesday.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Thomas was potentially on the verge of getting released just days before signing an extension:
Releasing #Saints RB Darren Sproles saves$3.5M & continues the house cleaning of sorts on offense. Lance Moore cut, Pierre Thomas in danger— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2014
Former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has since signed with the Philadelphia Eagles per ESPN's Adam Schefter, also suggested on Twitter that Thomas would be departing Bourbon Street:
In fact, there has been a great deal of misinformation regarding Saints running backs this offseason. Rapoport initially reported on Friday that the Saints were set to release Sproles:
The #Saints are cutting RB Darren Sproles, per source.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2014
Sproles even said his goodbyes to the city of New Orleans on Twitter:
Thank you New Orleans for your support over the past 3 years! I will always be forever grateful. #WhoDat— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 8, 2014
According to NFL on ESPN via Schefter, however, the Saints will attempt to trade Sproles instead:
THIS JUST IN: Saints now plan to trade RB Darren Sproles due to heavy interest. He will not be released. (via @AdamSchefter)— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 11, 2014
Regardless of how the Saints handle Sproles, it looks as though he is almost certainly going elsewhere. That opens the door for Thomas to be even more productive than he was in 2013.
Was re-signing Thomas the right move by the Saints?
Sproles was targeted 89 times out of the backfield last season, and it stands to reason that many of those throws from quarterback Drew Brees will now go in Thomas' direction.
At the same time, Thomas' role as a runner may lessen. Mark Ingram looked very good late last season, so head coach Sean Payton is likely to lean in his direction, although Thomas will obviously be the top choice in passing downs.
The loss of Sproles' explosiveness will definitely impact New Orleans' offense, but the combination of Thomas and Ingram should work well. Also, Brees is still the man in charge, so there shouldn't be a noticeable drop-off in production.
New Orleans offers the perfect situation for Thomas right now, and the Saints certainly recognize that the fit is a good one as well.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter