New Orleans reloaded its receiving corps this offseason, making multiple trade-up maneuvers to land Chris Olave in Round 1 and signing Jarvis Landry shortly after the draft. The Saints’ receiver puzzle, however, still hinges on Michael Thomas‘ availability.
The two-time All-Pro has not played since the 2020 season, and that featured multiple injuries and an unremarkable stat line. Thomas shut down his potential midseason 2021 return, citing a setback in his recovery from a later-than-expected ankle surgery. As the Saints wind down their first week of OTAs, Thomas is not yet ready to go. Dennis Allen said Thursday the team is targeting a Thomas training camp return, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
“I think he’s doing well in his rehab. He’s not ready yet, but he’s here, he’s rehabbing, getting himself better and we’re certainly anxious to get him out here,” Allen said, via ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “I know that he’s working his tail off to get himself back. And we feel good about where he’s at right now.”
Thomas ripped off four straight 1,100-plus-yard receiving seasons to start his career and broke Marvin Harrison‘s 17-year-old single-season reception record in 2019, when he caught 149 passes. He earned first-team All-Pro acclaim for his work that season and in 2018. Thomas’ 2018 slate led to him signing a five-year, $96.25MM extension ahead of the ’19 season. Although the Ohio State product delivered in Year 1 of that deal, just about everything else since the agreement has gone off track.
Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two career games. Then, in Week 1 of that season, a high ankle sprain — coupled with a midseason hamstring injury — changed everything. The Saints then urged Thomas to undergo offseason ankle surgery ASAP, but he waited until last summer to go under the knife. In early November, Thomas announced his latest setback — one that has led to this point.
The 29-year-old standout suddenly faces some health-related pressure. The Saints held off on trading Thomas, despite his wayward 2020s and Sean Payton‘s departure, but 2022 stands to be a pivotal season for him. Thanks to multiple restructuring, the Saints do not have a viable path to cutting Thomas for notable savings until 2024.
The Saints certainly missed Thomas last season, when they featured no players with 700-plus receiving yards, and moved aggressively to add some supporting-cast talent. Of course, Olave and Landry double as Thomas insurance. A Saints receiver cadre of Thomas, Landry, Olave, Marquez Callaway and the recently re-signed Tre’Quan Smith would be one of the NFL’s best. But that reality cannot be counted on just yet.