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NFL Draft

Will Saints Trade Michael Thomas?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 12, 2021
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Will New Orleans Saints Trade Michael Thomas?

There’s nothing like some August pre-season beef to get the football season going!

Every year it seems like we have a few subjects one way or another. It could be a coach and a player not seeing eye-to-eye on a specific role. Or, of course, it could be a contractual dispute that makes the headlines and forces tension to rise as we near Week 1 of the regular season.

This year, the storyline leading the way is quite an interesting one to talk about. It’s a subject that, while not unheard of, is somewhat rare in the complexity of its layers. We’re talking about Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and how there has become a non-zero chance that Thomas could find himself wearing a different uniform in the near future.

It all started when Thomas opted to have ankle surgery just a month out from when the Saints were supposed to report for training camp—at least, that’s where we thought it all started. Thomas battled through injuries last season and was only able to play in seven games. For one of the most targeted receivers in the game, 2020 featured career lows across the board for Thomas statistically, who clearly just was not fit to play even when he was out there in uniform.

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in the first game of the regular season last year. It is something that bothered him throughout the regular season, but he was able to suit up and play in the Saints’ wild-card win against the Chicago Bears at the very end of the season. But with this being an injury that held Thomas back all year, one would have thought that the receiver would have opted to have the surgery right away when the Saints’ season was done. Why did he wait until the middle of the summer? It’s not like his ankle injury was any sort of a surprise when the season ended.

It was also reported that Thomas ignored calls from his team’s trainer, the wide receivers coach, and the head coach, Sean Payton, during the offseason regarding his potential ankle surgery. So when they found out Thomas was getting the surgery so late, as expected, they were pissed. 

Why did Thomas do this? Well, remember how I said we thought the story started this summer? Apparently, that might not be the case. 

In some social media detective work, Thomas “liked” a tweet that implied the Saints pushed him to play through the pain and not get surgery during the season last year in order to make a big playoff push, knowing it was going to be Drew Brees’ last season. There’s no concrete evidence that a “liked” tweet tells the whole truth, but it could be why Thomas wasn’t exactly jumping to do exactly what the team wanted after the season.

Thomas also went on to post this message on social media.

Some people called that cryptic; I say it’s pretty loud and clear. 

With no Brees, it was already going to be a much different season on offense in New Orleans. But with one of the best offensive lines in football, Alvin Kamara, and Thomas, they were expected to be okay, no matter who their quarterback was. Now, they won’t have Thomas, at least for a good chunk of the regular season. And even when he comes back, how motivated will he be to play for a team that he clearly isn’t even on good speaking terms with?

Could this all be leading to a Thomas trade?

One might think that, after signing a five-year, $96.25 million contract, that moving on from Thomas might be difficult, but it really wouldn’t be. If the Saints traded Thomas right now they’d save $1.2 million immediately, as well as, of course, the rest of the $74.7 million he is owed from 2022-2024. Thomas also has zero guaranteed money after 2021. If Mickey Loomis can stomach the large dead cap hit in 2022, a deal can happen. 

The suitors for Thomas would basically be any contending team that has future cap space and even some teams who are building their winning window. Thomas is only 28 years old and has plenty of experience being the go-to WR1 for an offense. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Las Vegas Raiders would all jump at the chance, while other teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, and even the Jacksonville Jaguars could be interested.

The market for Thomas would not be shallow, but if the Saints want any chance at all to be competitive in the NFC South (a division they’ve already lost their “favorites” title to in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), they’ll need Thomas for however many games he can give them. The rest of the receiver room is quite green, as Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and special teams ace Deonte Harris are next in line at receiver. That group, along with a new quarterback, doesn’t exactly spell out a strong case for a playoff appearance. They’ll need Thomas for that. But if they’re looking to move on, they should easily be able to swing a top-50 pick in return for him.

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