Thomas is a talented, versatile Pro Bowl linebacker, but remember that linebacker also is one of Green Bay's strongest positions. The Packers feature A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga, with Abdul Hodge and special teams standout Tracy White waiting in the wings.
The Packers would be wise to sign a linebacker in free agency, or select one in the draft to improve depth, but not break the bank by signing Thomas. It is quite likely that Thomas, who also made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer in 2003, will get a signing bonus in the range of $10 million to $12 million as part of a multi-year deal. That's just the signing bonus, which is paid upfront but prorated over the life of the deal for salary cap purposes. He also will receive a yearly base salary, which including the signing bonus proration, could average between $4 million to $5 million per season, or more.
The Packers are in the process of attempting to extend Barnett's contract past the 2007 season. If they fork over a lot of money to Barnett, don't expect them to do the same with Thomas. Remember, the Packers owe Hawk an option bonus of $11.9 million in March as part of his six-year, $37.4 million rookie contract.
To sink even more money into the position simply doesn't make sense for the Packers at this time. The 29-year-old Thomas, who will be entering his eighth season, is up there in age compared to the Packers' other linebackers. Barnett, entering his fifth season, is the most experienced linebacker among his peers on the Packers. Like running back, linebackers do not often last past the age of 30 in the NFL because of the pounding they absorb on nearly every play.
Look for the New England Patriots to make a serious attempt to obtain Thomas. Cleveland and San Francisco also are in need of linebackers and probably will be in the running as well. The Packers? They have a good thing going at the position, so why mess with it?
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.