Saints Not Planning Michael Thomas Trade

To say the Saints’ Michael Thomas extension has not worked out is probably putting it mildly. The star wide receiver missed all of last season and, due to injuries in 2020, has not been on the All-Pro level in the past two years.

Despite Thomas upsetting Saints brass by delaying an offseason ankle surgery last year, he remains in the team’s 2022 plans, per Ian Rapoport of (video link). After spending extensive time in New York rehabbing, Thomas has returned to New Orleans and has been in communication with the team. While this does not necessarily guarantee the veteran pass catcher will be with the Saints next season, the team could certainly use him.

The Saints struggled for most of this past season at receiver, having cut Emmanuel Sanders and seen Thomas suffer a setback that prevented him from playing at all during the year. Thomas, who will turn 29 in March, has two first-team All-Pro seasons on his resume. Both, of course, came during Drew Brees‘ New Orleans tenure. The Saints are entering a second straight offseason with uncertainty at quarterback, but a Thomas return would do a lot to help the team’s passing attack — if the former second-round pick can stay healthy.

Thomas led the league in receptions in 2018 and ’19, breaking Marvin Harrison‘s single-season record by catching 149 passes during the latter season, but has missed 26 games since the start of the 2020 campaign. He is attached to a $15.35MM base salary in 2022. Thomas’ cap number is also set to spike from $10MM to more than $24MM next season.

The Saints are once again on their own tier in terms of cap compliance, or lack thereof, sitting more than $70MM over the projected 2022 cap. Thomas already converted part of his 2021 salary into a bonus to help New Orleans’ cap situation, moving more money onto the final three years of his five-year, $96.25MM deal. The only way a trade would not crush the Saints in terms of dead money would be if it came after June 1, a la the Falcons’ Julio Jones deal last year. New Orleans would save $15.8MM by trading Thomas after that key date.

With or without Thomas, the receiver position figures to be one the Saints target early in the draft. New Orleans did not see any of its pass catchers top 700 yards last season, with Marquez Callaway‘s 698 leading the team.

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