PRO FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE NFL : Thomas Becomes Richest Running Back

Associated Press

After some last-minute fine-tuning, Thurman Thomas became the NFL's highest-paid running back, agreeing to a four-year, $13.5-million contract.

Thomas' agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Associated Press of the agreement Wednesday morning. His partner, Jeff Moorad, then called back later in the day to say the contract hadn't been finalized yet.

But early in the evening, Steinberg confirmed that he had reached agreement with Buffalo General Manager John Butler.

Steinberg said the contract essentially doubles the existing top contract for a running back, that of Detroit's Barry Sanders, who makes approximately $1.7 million a year.

The contract calls for Thomas to receive $4 million this year. His salary decreases to approximately $2.8 million for each of the next two years before jumping up back up to about $4 million in the final year.

"I think I've got at least four more years in me that I can perform at the level I have been," said Thomas, who last season became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in combined rushing and receiving yards for four seasons in a row.

He said he decided not to play out the final year of his existing contract and try the free-agent market next year.

"I want to stay here," he said. "I didn't want to be out on the tour like Reggie White."

Thomas rushed for a career-best 1,487 yards last season, his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and third highest in the league behind Emmitt Smith of Dallas and Barry Foster of Pittsburgh.

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Cornerback Albert Lewis of the Kansas City Chiefs, who missed much of last season because of a forearm injury, fractured the arm again in practice and will be lost indefinitely. Lewis will undergo surgery today. . . . The Cincinnati Bengals signed free-agent wide receiver Mark Duper, 34. Duper caught 511 passes for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns in 11 seasons with Miami. . . . Defensive end Tim Harris missed Philadelphia's opening practice because his wife was in an auto accident in San Francisco. The team had no immediate word of her condition. . . . Cornerback J.B. Brown ended a two-day holdout and signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins worth an estimated $2.5 million. . . . Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle Tony Casillas will undergo surgery on his left elbow today to remove bone chips. Coach Jimmy Johnson said Casillas will miss at least two weeks of practice.

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