EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The NFL is an entity in which goals and contracts are usually short term, so it is extremely rare if not unprecedented for the Giants to solidify a seven-year commitment to a player. But Andrew Thomas is a special player.
The Giants today signed Thomas, their stellar left tackle, to a five-year extension that begins in 2025, after he plays under the final two years of his current deal. Thomas is just 24 years old as he enters his fourth NFL season. A second-team All-Pro and team captain in 2022, he will be a pillar on the offensive line and in the locker room for the foreseeable future.
"We basically had him for two more years," general manager Joe Schoen said. "We had him this year and the fifth-year option. So, add in five on top of that and that gives him the chance to be a Giant for the rest of his career. But tackles are also playing a long time. It gives him a chance late, 31-years-old, to get another bite at the apple if he's still playing at a high level."
"When the staff came to me about getting something done, my team and I, we were eager to get something done, just for security," Thomas said. "It's a blessing to be in this position, and it's also motivation to keep working, and to live up to that number and compete to be the best tackle in the league."
View photos from the first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Thomas was the fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, from the University of Georgia. He struggled at times as a rookie and missed four games with an ankle injury in 2021. Last year, Thomas was one of the NFL's very best tackles and a standout for a resurgent Giants team that made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Now, he is certain to play many seasons here and perhaps become a Giant for life.
"It was a long time coming," Thomas said. "Obviously, it was a bumpy road, especially at the beginning. Just trying to keep my head on straight and people continue to ask me about other tackles, and I always say, 'I'm running my own race.' That's the mentality I'm trying to keep. I'm focusing on what's going to get me better. Worry about everyone else and what's going on around me isn't going to make me a better player. So, I've just been focusing on taking care of my body and being the best teammate, I can be."
Thomas' ascent to stardom occurred in Schoen's first season as general manager and Brian Daboll's debut as head coach.
"Anytime you can retain good players, as a coach, you're thankful for that," Daboll said.
"He's quiet, humble," Schoen said of Thomas. "He's in here early in the weight room. He's in here doing his thing. He's a pro already. Takes care of his body. He does all the right things. He embodies everything that we want to be about."
Before they assumed their current positions 18 months ago, Schoen and Daboll were the assistant general manager and offensive coordinator, respectively, for the Buffalo Bills. They had experience with extending players who were still under contract.
"We did it in Buffalo a couple of times," Schoen said. "I'm a believer in it. He played at a high level and he's our type of guy. To get ahead of those things, I think if he's willing to do a deal, and it was something we were comfortable with, both parties were happy with where we ended up landing."
Securing Thomas' services long-term was an easy decision given his skill, work ethic, youth and potential.
"I didn't study him his rookie year," Schoen said. "I heard the rumblings that he didn't play good or not up to his draft status. I never saw that stuff. Before I got the job, I watched the 2021 stuff and thought he was a very good player. In the 2022 season, he played at a very high level. I was convicted over the two years that I had seen him play, I know he had the injury, that he's a young talent that fits our culture and DNA that also had the production and athleticism that continues to ascend. So, we felt very comfortable extending him."
"That means a lot," Thomas said. "This is a historic franchise that has won four Super Bowls. It means a lot that they want to keep me here for that long. I'm going to do my best to be a leader and great player for a long time."
He already has. When Thomas first played youth football in Georgia, he was an offensive lineman.
"Then they moved me to fullback and linebacker," Thomas said. "I played that from age 10 to 12 or 13. Once I got the motor skills, I was strictly offensive or defensive line and it's been like that ever since.
"Growing up, even after scoring touchdowns, my favorite position was defense because you got to hit, and you get to play a little bit on your own. You can kind of go where you want to go. But once I got to high school, I realized how good I could be at offensive line, and I tried to transfer that mentality over of being physical. You can't really tackle people, but you can pancake people."
Giving Thomas the opportunity to do that for many more seasons is one of several important moves Schoen made this this offseason to set up the Giants for a successful future. Quarterback Daniel Jones and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence signed long-term contract extensions.
"First and foremost, I'm thankful for ownership, the Mara and Tisch families, that they give us the resources to operate and sign and retain our players, and even through free agency, that they give us the resources to succeed," Schoen said. "You're always looking at the short term and then you're looking at a long-term plan. I think as we went into the offseason, some of the longer deals that we did, those were longer-term plans based on age, their ability, where they fit, and again, just thankful that we have the resources to do that.
"Those three players, along with two draft classes, (give us) a foundation of guys under the age of 26 that we have under contract for a few years at a minimum, where Andrew is up to seven years," Schoen said. "It's important. You have another offseason with free agency. Another draft. You just start stacking good players on top of good players on top of good players, and next thing you know, you have a good team."
The New York Giants have reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of training camp.