- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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According to Thomas, his contract is for four years and could be worth up to $28 million. The Giants have an option after the first year to protect themselves; Thomas is coming back from a second ACL injury in his right knee..
But Thomas says he is more than ready to prove to the Giants that they may have gotten a bargain by re-signing him prior to the free-agency period, which began at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
"I know how I am going to return," Thomas said by telephone. "Barring major injury I am going to be back to my old self."
"Comeback player of the year and get to the Pro Bowl," Thomas added of his goals this season. "I am not going to sell myself short. A lot of people are doubting me or saying that you know, coming off your second ACL injury, you are going to have an off-year. My goal is to prove all that wrong. Without a doubt ... I'll be ready for training camp."
Shortly after free agency began, the Giants added more depth to the secondary, re-signing cornerbacks Michael Coe and Justin Tryon. Both were unrestricted free agents. The team also signed tackle Joel Reinders and tight end Larry Donnell.
Donnell is a 6-6, 269-pound tight end who played at Grambling State from 2007 to 2010. The Giants need tight ends with Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum both rehabbing from torn ACL injuries. The Giants also will have Cowboys free agent tight end Martellus Bennett in for a visit, according to ESPNDallas.com.
Teammates such as Justin Tuck believed Thomas was on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl cornerback last year before the injury. Thomas was the Giants' most productive cornerback in 2010, leading the team in tackles (101) and interceptions (5). He suffered his knee injury in the second game of the preseason, against the Bears, after colliding with teammate Jason Pierre-Paul.
This is the second time in his career he has had to come back from a knee injury, after recovering from torn knee ligaments suffered in 2005 while at USC.
Thomas said he is running and cutting and doing agility exercises outside now, and that his knee feels great.
"The biggest thing is my mentality is strong," Thomas said. "If you are mentally strong, then going forward out there you are not hesitant. As far as my knee, I can jump, run, cut and starting to introduce myself to all those things. It is hard to put a percentage -- are you 80 percent? -- because there are like stages that you go through at first. But I am ahead of schedule. My knee feels great."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said at the NFL scouting combine in February that having Thomas and unrestricted free agent linebacker Jonathan Goff is part of his 2012 season plan.
Goff also suffered a torn ACL before the start of the 2011 season. The team has repeatedly said that it wants both defensive players back.
Thomas said both sides agreed upon numbers Saturday before finalizing the contract Tuesday. Prior to the knee injury, Thomas was thinking about a huge extension like the one Kansas City's Brandon Flowers received -- reportedly a five-year deal worth an average of $9.75 million.
"There was never a number discussed before I tore my ACL but that was pretty much the ballpark I was looking at," Thomas said. "I'm 27, coming off two ACLs. I want to be here with the Giants. If there is a market out there for me, my opportunity was gone when I tore my ACL."
Thomas' return will certainly make defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and safety Antrel Rolle happy. Without Thomas, the Giants needed more than three-quarters of the season to adjust to playing without their best nickel back. Rolle had to often cover slot receivers and the team finally was able to adjust to losing Thomas and Goff in time to win six straight games and the Super Bowl.
"We are a lot stronger," Thomas said of the Giants' defense. "Obviously (cornerback Aaron Ross) is still up in the air so we lose a veteran player that can contribute so much to the defense so hopefully we can get him back. I can't wait to contribute and get back in that nickel spot and push Antrel back to his true safety spot and everybody can just feel comfortable again and nobody is out of position."
It remains to be seen what will happen now with Ross, who started in place of Thomas last year and is an unrestricted free agent. The Giants -- who have Corey Webster, Thomas and Prince Amukamara as their top cornerbacks right now -- have had to restructure the contracts of Eli Manning and David Baas while releasing Brandon Jacobs to create cap space.
Thomas is thankful and ready to prove that he is worth the investment.
"I didn't want to be nowhere else," Thomas said. "And the teams that may have shown interest it wasn't hard enough. My biggest goal was to return somewhere where I was wanted and most comfortable and what I know. To leave a team like this ... to leave a city, organization and fan base, it is too much to lose. For them to want me back in the manner that they did, it is all about loyalty."
Coe and Tryon both suffered season-ending injuries last season but provide the Giants with much-needed depth in the secondary. The 6-8 Reinders is an undrafted free agent out of the University of Waterloo in Canada. He was in training camp with the Browns in 2010. He did not play last season.
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