Pierre Thomas’ contract extension, Keenan Lewis restructure saves Saints $2.5 million in cap space

Advocate staff photo by John McCusker Saints running back Pierre Thomas breaks into the open field against the Dallas Cowboys last month.
Advocate staff photo by John McCusker Saints running back Pierre Thomas breaks into the open field against the Dallas Cowboys last month.

A two-year contract extension Saints running back Pierre Thomas officially signed on Wednesday saved New Orleans $1.33 million in salary cap space for 2014, according to the website OverTheCap.com.

Meanwhile, reportedly, a restructuring of cornerback Keenan Lewis’ contract saved the Saints another $1.2 million in cap space.

The extension contained $4 million in new money, $2.1 million in fully guaranteed salary and included a $1.245 million signing bonus, the site said. It dropped his 2014 base salary from $2.5 million to $855,000, which helped create the savings.

Before the extension, Thomas was supposed to count $2.9 million against the salary cap in 2014, the last year of his contract. But with the extension, the site said, Thomas — who had his 2014 pay cut in the process — will count $1.57 million against the cap this year: that’s his base salary of $855,000, one-third of his signing bonus ($415,000) and a $300,000 roster bonus.

In 2015, Thomas’ cap number is $2.565 million: a base salary of $2.1 million, one-third of his signing bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus. In 2016, his cap number is $2.765 million: a $2.2 million base salary, one-third of his signing bonus, a $100,000 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus.

It was announced the Saints and Thomas had agreed to the extension on March 12.

The fan-favorite Thomas went from being an undrafted rookie in 2007 to scoring two touchdowns on the night the Saints won their first NFC championship in 2009. He told The Advocate in 2013 he considered that to be the game of his life.

Two weeks after that, he scored the Saints’ first touchdown on the night they won their only Super Bowl. After his seven seasons, his 3,523 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns are fourth and fifth all-time for the franchise. A master at the screen pass, a valuable tool in the Saints’ offensive attack, Thomas also has 2,230 receiving yards on 282 catches and is just 13 grabs away from becoming the club’s all-time leader for receptions by a running back.

Thomas — skilled in pass blocking as well — played all 16 of the Saints’ regular-season games in 2013, rushing for a team-leading 549 yards and two touchdowns on 147 carries. He also had 513 yards and three touchdowns on 77 catches, the most among NFL running backs. However, he sat out the team’s two playoff games with a chest injury he suffered in the regular-season finale.

As for Lewis, his 2014 cap number fell from $4.55 million to $3.35 million after restructuring his playing deal, USA Today’s Tom Pelissero and ESPN’s Mike Triplett reported Thursday. Lewis also got a $4.4 million signing bonus as a part of the restructure, so he didn’t take a paycut.

According to the NFL Players Association website, Lewis’ 2014 base salary dropped from $3.3 million to $1 million; his 2015 base salary dropped from $4.1 million to $1.8 million; his 2016 base salary dropped from $4.45 million to $4.25 million; and his 2017 base salary dropped from $4.95 million to $4.75 million.

The union site said the Saints had about $3.09 million in cap space on Thursday.

On related matters, some numbers are in for the one-year contracts recently given to backup linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Joe Morgan, who re-signed with the Saints in unrestricted free agency. Morgan’s base salary for 2014 is $495,000, and Humber’s is $730,000, not counting a $65,000 signing bonus.

It’s worth noting Morgan at one point was a restricted free agent after missing two of his three years in the NFL with preseason knee injuries. The lowest tender he could’ve been offered to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent would’ve been $1.4 million.

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This post has been updated since it was first published.