The Detroit Lions have cut WR Mike Thomas, whom they had traded for less than just one season ago. I had in my notes that he had $1 million in guaranteed salary for the year which was confirmed by Joel Corry on Twitter
@Jason_OTC Mike Thomas had a $1M base salary injury guarantee at signing. The skill & salary cap guarantees kicked in April 5.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) August 19, 2013
Unless the guarantee’s of the contract were somehow voided by some action by Thomas, the move comes as a bot of a surprise. Detroit had half a season to evaluate him last year and all winter to watch film to decide if he was worth going further in on. I would imagine many teams would have released Thomas before his guarantees vested on April 5th. Had the Lions done that they would have saved the team $1.05 million in cash and salary cap space. Thomas also had a $50,000 workout bonus in his contract.
Thomas was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in fourth round of the 2009 NFL draft. After two seasons in the league the Jaguars decided to extend Thomas, giving him a 3 year contract extension worth just under $15.7 million. Thomas’ play immediately declined with his production in 2011 dropping to a career low 44 receptions and 415 yards. By 2012 Thomas was demoted and caught just 13 passes for 80 yards in 7 games for the Jaguars. The Jaguars traded Thomas mid-season.
The mistake of extending Thomas early is the other side of the coin when people consider the benefits of the early extension. Had Thomas simply been allowed to play out his rookie contract he would have been released in 2012 with little consequence. Instead he seemed to be a player that played for a contract and once he received it he was finished with giving the same level of effort.
The Jaguars also whiffed with the guaranteed salary on Thomas as well, becoming convinced that 2011 was an aberration. Had Jacksonville cut him prior to the start of the 2012 season they would have avoided payment of a $3.5 million dollar roster bonus as well as guaranteeing his $1.45 million dollar salary. Unlike the Lions, though, the Jaguars do not have salary cap issues. By failing to cut him in April the Lions will gain no effective cap room in the release due to the guarantees in the contract. He was set to earn $1.45 million in salary and will be replaced by a player in the cap calculations making more than the difference between his salary and guaranteed salary.
All told, Thomas ended up receiving an additional $7,935,000 because of the extension and failure of both the Jaguars and Lions to cut him before his guarantees vested to full guarantees. Technically Thomas has been released before even playing a game during the actual extension years of the contract. Thomas should be be “buyer beware” at this point for any teams that might consider reaching out to him in 2013.