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More than the money

Why Thomas chose Pats, and more free-agency notes

Posted: Monday March 5, 2007 1:38AM; Updated: Monday March 5, 2007 9:23PM
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In 2006 with Baltimore, Adalius Thomas had 64 tackles, 11 sacks, one interception and recovered one fumble for a touchdown.
In 2006 with Baltimore, Adalius Thomas had 64 tackles, 11 sacks, one interception and recovered one fumble for a touchdown.
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"I don't expect people to understand the contract,'' Adalius Thomas said over the phone from Logan Airport in Boston on Saturday night in the hoarse, scratchy voice that is his trademark. "It doesn't matter what people think of the contract. I know what the contract is. It's a real contract, not a paper contract, and I'm going to earn all of it.''

Crazy beginning to free agency, wasn't it? The overpayments were predictable, with teams entering the signing period averaging $14.95 million of cap room. The craziest things happened at guard, where three above-average players leapfrogged into the contractual Hall of Fame. Derrick Dockery jumped from Washington to Buffalo for seven years, $49 million last Friday, then Eric Steinbach went from Cincinnati to Cleveland for $49.5 million over seven, and Sunday, Leonard Davis (you'll be sorry, Jerry) skipped from Arizona to Dallas for $49.6 million over seven.

One guy might have been underpaid in Lunatic 2007 Market Dollars: Adalius Thomas. He signed with New England for five years and $35.04 million.

The breakdown, according to Management Council documents obtained Sunday night:

Signing bonus: $12 million in 2007.

Option bonus: $8 million payable in 2008, applied for cap reasons in equal $2 million increments in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Salaries: $900,000 in '07, $900,000 in '08, $1.9 million in '09, $4.9 million in '10 and $5.9 million in '11.

Workout bonuses: $107,000 annually if he participates in the Patriots' offseason workout program in Foxboro.

Cap numbers: In succession, beginning this year, $3.4 million, $5.4 million, $6.4 million, $9.4 million, $10.4 million.

I say "might have been underpaid" because there is always a danger that a unique, great player in one system might not translate to that kind of player in another system. But I'll go on record saying this is a tremendous signing -- for both sides, not just the Patriots.

Thomas gets what he wants, staying in the Eastern Time Zone (he did not want to move to California), playing with an annual contender, working under a coach who obviously is an imaginative defensive strategist and playing for a team that isn't a sideshow.

The Patriots get what they want, signing a versatile 29-year-old linebacker (mostly) to buttress a rapidly aging unit, adding a perfect locker-room influence, and leaving enough of their initial $23.006 million in cap room to go do more damage with the Wes Welkers of the world.

I got to know Thomas pretty well on a couple of trips to Baltimore last season, and he's a rare bird in the NFL. He's a team guy all the way. Every week last season he learned assignments for the defensive line, linebacker and secondary. "It's fun,'' he said. "I never get bored.'' Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan nicknamed him "The Coordinator" because he knew all the positions.

He's a Renaissance man who puts his money and his off-day activities into making the world better. He started a chess competition for inner-city kids in Baltimore. He's worked for Habitat for Humanity. He's financially adopted a Baltimore elementary school. After his second NFL season, he interned for an Illinois congressman in Washington. He thinks the troops should be out of Iraq. He's worried about global warming. "We all have brains,'' Thomas told me one night in October. "We should use them.''

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