I've been saying for a long time, that I believe we should have put Mike Thomas on the Trade Block heading into the draft. Clearly, General Manager Gene Smith was targeting a couple of specific players rather than getting as many players near the top of his board as he could; the first of which was Justin Blackmon. Even though they reportedly had an interest in Stephen Hill and with the likes of Alshon Jeffery still available, they easily ran to the podium for Branch, which shows you exactly how highly they think of Branch (a whole different can of worms), but more importantly, that they didn't feel pressure to get another WR at the top of the draft.
Finally, instead of doing the Gene Smith positional double down with the 2-3 rounders, passing on guys like Chris Givens, TY Hilton, and a couple of quality defensive lineman, he was confident enough to take a punter. How does this all relate, though?
The case could be made for Gene's sanity, but it could be...just might be the manifestation of some confidence our new receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan and/or Gene Smith has for our group. With plenty of slot guys available in the draft, we took a punter.
Now, I hadn't really considered this to be plausible until the release of Wide Receiver Jarrett Dillard. I mean, even with the incentive increase, Dillard would have made less than Mike Thomas and if he won a battle there we could have still saved money by cutting or trading Mike Thomas if we were really happy with our group anyways.
Up until now I have only given reason to think Mike Thomas is regarded highly by the staff and Gene Smith based on decisions they've made, and it looks like whether you like it or not we're stuck with him. Of course, for the shorter answer you could have referred to Thomas' extension last year, but I was looking to paint a clearer picture that this is how they still feel now. Though up until now I thought the best case scenario would be trade Mike Thomas away, I'm beginning to see things from a different perspective.First lets be fair to Thomas, prior to last year's mess of a season, he had 114 receptions for 1273 yards, 5 TDs and 20 catches over 20 yards. For a 4th rounder, that's comparable to Johnny Knox's 96 receptions for 1487 yards and 10 TDs in the same span. Worth noting, Thomas had no fumbles in the period and Knox had 3. Also, Thomas had 200 yards rushing, and Knox had only 2.
If Johnny Knox hit the open market right now, we would be screaming to sign him, in spite of his regression last year as well as Thomas'.
In fact, last year Thomas regressed all the way back to his rookie year, because their stats are identical. If Thomas makes the same improvement from his first (and probably only) year starting as his rookie year in the slot, he could potentially play outside or in. Perhaps not, but I'd be willing to guess it's good that Thomas was humbled last year. Maybe it will help him focus to reach his peak. He's been mentioned as a very competitive, almost cocky guy and maybe this is exactly what he needed.
To some people these will be really obvious points, and to others I will be blowing things out of context. Either way, there is one thing we can all agree on: above all else, Thomas' commitment will define his season. Will he get focused and take his abilities to a higher level, or will he be burned for being demoted back to the third guy and regress even more?
While I certainly don't know the answer, I'm going to put a little faith in the coaches and Mike Thomas, here. While I thought he was the perfect candidate for a burnout, I'm starting to see the perfect candidate for a comeback player. He has come out and made a point to discuss his respect for Coach Sullivan (likely a PR move, but a damn good one), as a humbled competitor who's been put back into his world, as the multi-purpose weapon and slot specialist, and he takes all that experience of playing on the outside (albeit badly) with him.