- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2008

There are advantages to not having a first-round choice in the NFL Draft. Teams don’t spend as much on rookies and don’t usually have to worry about holdouts.

The Washington Redskins made sure Friday that their top selection, second-round receiver Devin Thomas, would be on the field when training camp starts Sunday, signing the 34th pick to a four-year, $4.833 million contract that includes $2.373 million guaranteed. Washington’s first choice in 2007, safety LaRon Landry, who went sixth overall, missed the start of camp last summer before signing a five-year, $41.5 million deal that included $17.5 million guaranteed.

“It’s one of those situations you want to get out of the way,” Thomas said. “I did not want to hold out. I feel like [spring practices at Redskin Park] went real well. I got my feet wet a little bit.”

Thomas is expected to compete with fellow second-rounder Malcolm Kelly and veteran James Thrash for playing time behind starters Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El this season.

“We’re friends, but we also compete,” said Thomas, who became friends with Kelly at the NFL scouting combine in February. “It makes it more fun.”

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Thomas and the 6-4, 219-pound Kelly offer the element of size that was absent from Washington’s receiving corps the past three seasons. The Redskins haven’t had three wideouts catch as many as 28 passes each since 2000.

“Devin has size and strength,” executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said. “Being in pads [in camp after an offseason without them] will benefit him.”

Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said Thomas didn’t disappoint in the spring.

“Devin showed us what he showed in college,” Hixon said. “He has the speed, and his acceleration after the catch is like Santana’s. As pass-happy as our offense could be, there will be enough balls to go around.”

After one year at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and another in which he saw little action at Michigan State, Thomas caught 79 passes for 1,260 yards (15.9-yard average) and eight touchdowns for the Spartans in 2007. He also ranked 11th in the nation with a 29.1-yard kickoff return average. His 1,135 kickoff return yards were a Big Ten record, and his 199.2 all-purpose yards a game ranked second in conference history.

Thomas opted to leave school early after being projected as a first-rounder. That he wasn’t taken until the second round still rankles him.

“I always have a chip on my shoulder,” Thomas said. “That’s something I’ll carry with me.”

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said that while he was disappointed his client wasn’t selected earlier, he told Thomas that being a member of the Redskins “is a lot better than being a first-round pick” because he’ll be well taken care of and well coached.

With Thomas’ deal done, only second-rounder Fred Davis remains unsigned, but Cerrato said he was hopeful that the tight end will agree to terms in time to report with the rest of the players today.

Washington made room for Thomas on the roster by releasing fullback Pete Schmitt, who had been in camp as a rookie free agent last summer.

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