For two years in a row now, the Dolphins have used the exclusive rights tender to lock down Michael Thomas, all but ensuring that one of their best special teams players and most versatile defensive backs will again be on the team in 2016.
Thomas was one of several Dolphins players given exclusive rights tenders Friday. The others: safety Shamiel Gary, receiver Matt Hazel, offensive lineman Ulrick John, cornerback Tyler Patmon and tight end Jake Stoneburner.
But the biggest name of the bunch is Thomas, who due to a little-known NFL rule was eligble for the exclusive rights tender for two consecutive years.
Teams can use the exclusive rights tender on players with two or fewer seasons of service time whose contracts are expired. Thomas is entering his fourth NFL season, but was on an NFL roster for just three games as a rookie, which didn’t count as an accrued season.
Miller started 13 games for the Dolphins last year at safety and corner. If Thomas does not sign the tender, he must sit out the season.
However, interest around the league in Thomas is strong, the Miami Herald has learned, so the Dolphins could be tempted to deal the 25-year-old if they get the right offer. It’s also not unusual for significant contributors on the exclusive rights tender to sign long-term contract extensions with the team that has their rights.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.