Miami Dolphins captain Michael Thomas finds niche, gets richer

Dolphins safety and special teams captain Michael Thomas. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)

DB Michael Thomas

Height, weight: 5-11, 193

College: Stanford

Age: 27

Experience: Entering fifth season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Signed off San Francisco’s practice squad in December 2013

Contract: Signed one-year tender worth $1.8 million.

Pro Football Focus rank: 84th out of 90

In 2016

Stats: Had 39 tackles, one sack, one pass defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. … Tied for NFL lead with 19 special teams tackles.

Notable moments: Returned recovery of loose ball 27 yards at Baltimore. … Had a sack and forced fumble at New England. … Had six tackles, an interception and ran 3 yards to convert a fake punt in the playoff game at Pittsburgh.

Straight talk: After arriving as an unheralded practice squad pickup from the 49ers, Thomas has made a home here, reportedly turning down a three-year offer elsewhere because he wanted to stick around, even if that meant taking a one-year deal.

Nonetheless, he tripled his salary, so things aren’t too bad.

Michael Thomas huddles with kids from the Boys and Girls Club in Fort Pierce on Sept. 13, 2016. Thomas attended the community event in Fort Pierce, as he did in 2015, when he was given the key to the city. The event brings kids and police together, which is one of his priorities. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Thomas’ versatility to play nickel corner and safety was a factor last season, although it was on special teams where he earned his raise. It doesn’t hurt that he’s among the most tireless players on the team (perhaps in the league) when it comes to pitching in with community service.

Thomas’ play on special teams landed him on the ballot for Pro Bowl voting, although with only one player picked in each conference, the odds aren’t good.

That’s OK.

“From being told once you’re not good enough to even play on special teams in the NFL to even be considered a player who’s playing at a Pro Bowl level, it’s humbling in itself,” Thomas said.

Prospects for 2017

After a season in which injuries to the secondary hit improbable heights, it’s logical to expect Thomas’ primary contribution to come as special teams leader/captain, with a bit lighter load on defense.

Keep in mind that in addition to getting back a healthy Reshad Jones, the Dolphins added veteran safeties T.J. McDonald and Nate Allen. Plus, they drafted Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round.

Thomas admitted this spring that he wasn’t satisfied with his play in the secondary last season. He spent time at nickel corner in OTAs and minicamp, which was to his liking.

“Since moving to defense in college, that was the main position I played,” he said. “I feel most comfortable there.”

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