Dexter Lawrence II isn’t the only breakout starter who is line to receive a lucrative contract extension from the New York Giants. The All-Pro nose tackle could soon earn a big payday alongside another of Big Blue’s recent first-round picks, left tackle Andrew Thomas.
The “Giants are interested in extending Thomas early,” according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic. It makes sense for general manager Joe Schoen to act fast after the player drafted fourth overall in 2020 developed into one of the NFL’s marquee left tackles during his third season in the pros, but getting a deal done early for Thomas won’t be easy.
Or, more accurately, it won’t be cheap. Not when Laremy Tunsil’s recent extension with the Houston Texans has bloated the tackle market.
Duggan spelled out the Tunsil problem: “The Giants got a sense of how much an extension for left tackle Andrew Thomas will cost after Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil secured a three-year, $75 million extension. Tunsil, who is in the conversation for best left tackle in the league, turns 29 in August. Thomas, who is on the verge of entering that conversation, turned 24 in January. Translation: A Thomas extension will start at $25 million per year.”
The Giants can’t avoid paying out on this level after Thomas finished a banner 2022 campaign as one of the highest-graded linemen in the game, per Pro Football Focus:
Developments this offseason mean the Giants may have to put their accelerated plan for Thomas on hold, despite him about to enter the penultimate year of his original rookie deal.
Giants Can Play Waiting Game With Elite Starter Ahead of Dexter Lawrence Extension
As Duggan pointed out, the Giants “don’t need to rush” when it comes to drawing up Thomas’ next contract: “He has a $10.3 million cap hit for 2023 in the fourth year of his rookie contract, and he’s projected to have a $14.2 million cap hit in 2024 after the Giants exercise his fifth-year option.”
Playing the waiting game won’t be too much of a risk, so long as the Giants use the time to secure Lawrence’s long-term future. The latter deserves a pay rise after the upward trajectory in his statistics during 2022. Lawrence helped himself to 7.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, 28 quarterback hits and 36 pressures, per Pro Football Reference.
Numbers like those are why Schoen confirmed in February he’s already “had conversations” about an extension:
The 25-year-old can command a deal at the top end of his position group, something helped by fellow defensive tackle Daron Payne getting $90 million over four years from the Washington Commanders this offseason.
Payne and Lawrence share Joel Segal as an agent, according to Duggan, who believes “Segal’s goal will be to continue re-setting the non-Aaron Donald DT market this offseason…”
Making room to extend Lawrence’s contract will be a complex business, likely involving bookend tackle Leonard Williams accepting a pay cut. In the meantime, Schoen will have to keep one eye on a deal for Thomas, with the 24-year-old in line for terms putting him among the highest-paid players at his position.
Fourth-Year Pro Will Get Paid
Tunsil has changed the market by overtaking San Francisco 49ers’ linchpin Trent Williams has the highest-paid tackle in football. Tunsil will earn an annual salary of $25 million, per Spotrac.com, with the top five left tackles all earning in excess of $18 million in base salary.
Thomas can expect to get paid on a par with the big five. He’s earned as much after quickly maturing into a dominant force, both as quarterback Daniel Jones’ chief pass-protector and when knocking open running lanes for Saquon Barkley.
A shutdown blindside protector is one of the core positions in the modern NFL. Thomas already belongs in the shutdown bracket thanks to plays like this one against 9.5-sack edge-rusher Uchenna Nwosu of the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8, highlighted by Nick Falato of SB Nation’s Big Blue View:
Thomas is one of the linchpins on this Giants roster. Keeping players like Lawrence and Jones will count for naught if Schoen lets other vital starters walk.