The Miami Dolphins have locked up a key special teams contributor, a solid starting safety, and the hero of the team's 2013 win over the New England Patriots in Week 15 when he pulled down an endzone interception with two seconds to play.
#Dolphins gave an exclusive rights tender to S and special teamer Michael Thomas, source said. Should generate some interest.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2016
According to NFL rules, a player with less than three accrued seasons, but who has an expiring contract, is an "exclusive rights free agent." A team has until the start for free agency, this year at 4pm Eastern time on March 9, to put a "qualifying tender" on the player. This tender gives the player a one-year, league minimum salary, and prevents them from being able to negotiate with any other franchise. The player and team can work out a long term contract after the tender is applied. If no tender is applied to a player, he becomes an unrestricted free agent once the free agency period begins.
Thomas began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford in 2012. He signed initially with the San Francisco 49ers, where he was primarily a practice squad player. When the Dolphins looked to poach Thomas, the 49ers attempted to keep him with a pay-raise, but did not pull him to the active roster, allowing Miami to sign him. In his first game with the Dolphins - and having not taken a single snap on defense in practice - Thomas was thrust into the game in Week 15 of the 2013 season as the Dolphins attempted to end a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots. Tom Brady drove New England all the way down the field before Thomas made two key defensive plays, first knocking a pass out of the hands of Danny Amendola in the endzone with 27 seconds remaining in the contest, then coming back and picking off Brady, again in the endzone, with just two-seconds on the clock.
Since joining Miami, Thomas has played in 27 games, with 14 starts, recording 92 tackles, 71 of which came last season when he played 16 games with 12 starts. He has four career pass defenses and the one interception.