After the Jacksonville Jaguars OTA practices on Wednesday, Mark Long of the AP tweeted that the more he watched the harder time he had seeing fourth-year receiver Mike Thomas making the Jaguars roster. Long noted that compared to some of the other receivers, including all three new receivers and Cecil Shorts III, Thomas looked just average and wasn't separating himself. I've written and noted in the past I think Mike Thomas could be a casualty in final cuts if his game doesn't pick up with all the new talent, but this also led to a bit of a craze in people thinking Mike Thomas would be cut.
As Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union points out, if Mike Thomas is going to be on the chopping block, it's going to be an expensive cut.
Early last season, Thomas signed a five-year, $19 million contract which paid him $9 million in guaranteed money. Thomas received a $1.5 million roster bonus back in March, which is part of a total $3.5 million roster bonus which will be paid in full by March of 2013. Thomas also has a base salary of $1.45 million in 2012 that is fully guaranteed, not to mention his 2013 salary of one million dollars is also guaranteed.
So, that's roughly $6 million guaranteed left to pay Mike Thomas whether or not he's on the team. This doesn't necessarily mean that Thomas is safe. John Oehser of Jaguars.com noted on Jaguars This Week Wednesday night, that the contract shouldn't come into play when the team begins trimming down the roster. Oehser noted that with the new coaching staff and the influx of talent at the receiver position, it's likely going to be a clean slate at the receiver position and if the new coaching staff doesn't want him, they'll cut him regardless of the cost.
The big issue is that Mike Thomas gets paid no matter what happens and OTAs are time in which wide receivers should really shine, not struggle to catch the football and keep their footing running routes. At Thomas' salary, if he winds up being buried on the depth chart behind guys like Lee Evans and Cecil Shorts III, who've reportedly looked very good so far, is there a big difference in paying Thomas to barely play and not play at all? There appear to be guys who can do what Thomas does, in play the slot position and return punts, so how much is that going to be worth?
It's still very early and there is a lot yet to happen, so maybe Mike Thomas is just having a bad set of OTAs. There is always the worry with some players who begin to drastically underperform once they sign a new contract, especially when they've admitted to dogging it during the season. The money is guaranteed, so how much motivation is there to really push and battle like the rest of the players? The natural competitiveness of a professional athlete should kid in at some point, but we all know that's not always the case.
Ultimately I think Mike Thomas winds up on the roster, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if he doesn't. The real interesting part isn't if he makes the roster or not, but what his exact role will be in the offense and how much he will see the field, especially if his struggles continue.