Michael Thomas (WR)

Saints Restructure Michael Thomas’ Contract

Michael Thomas, in all likelihood, is staying put. The star wide receiver has agreed to a restructure that will save the Saints $8.7MM in cap space (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). 

The Saints have been restructuring players left and right as they work to get under the ~$182MM salary cap. In recent days, safety Malcolm Jenkins, defensive end Cam Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, and guard Andrus Peat have done their part by agreeing to similar arrangements. Others, like cornerback Janoris Jenkins and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, were released outright. It’s not clear if those vets were approached about potential pay cuts first.

Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two contests in his pro career. Then, Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1. He was limited to just seven games in 2020. He repeatedly clashed Saints brass, leading to trade speculation before the fall deadline.

To recap: The Saints handed Thomas a one-game suspension for striking a teammate. Then, he missed time with a hamstring injury. All in all, Thomas finished out the regular season with just 40 catches for 438 yards. He did manage to catch five passes for 73 yards and one score in the Saints’ playoff win over the Bears, however.

The Saints would have to be especially miserable with Thomas in order to cut ties. His massive five-year, $100MM extension from 2019 means that a divorce would be mighty expensive. Instead, they’ll try to mend fences, because Thomas is one of the game’s most dangerous threats when he’s healthy.

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Saints’ Michael Thomas To Have Ankle Surgery

Michael Thomas is expected to undergo multiple ankle surgeries, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The wide receiver played through the pain down the stretch, hoping to help Drew Brees capture another ring.

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and was limited to just seven games in 2020. Later on, the Saints handed Thomas a one-game suspension for striking a teammate. Then, he missed time with a hamstring injury. This year was a bit of a mess for Thomas, who finished out the regular season with just 40 catches for 438 yards. He did manage to catch five passes for 73 yards and one score in the Saints’ playoff win over the Bears, however.

Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two contests in his pro career. He was also in much better standing with the Saints, who reportedly considered trading him before the fall deadline.

Thomas inked a massive five-year, $100MM extension with the Saints in July of 2019. At the time of signing, that deal made him the highest-paid receiver in league history. At this point, parting ways with Thomas would leave the Saints with a major dead cap charge — they can ill afford that, given the dead money that would come with a Brees retirement.

Assuming Thomas comes back at 100% health, the Saints’ best bet would be to stay the course with him. Besides, Thomas remains one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons.

Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara To Return

Drew Brees will have his top weapons back. The Saints activated both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on Saturday.

Thomas missed the Saints final three regular-season games, going on IR before Week 15 because of a troublesome ankle injury. Kamara is back after contracting COVID-19 last week. The All-Pro running back will end up missing just one game.

The Saints shut down Thomas in hopes he could recover from an injury that has bothered him for months. Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1, costing him early-season time. That began a complicated season for the perennial Pro Bowler. The Saints handed Thomas a one-game suspension for striking a teammate and then saw him run into a hamstring injury in practice. Altogether, the fifth-year standout missed nine games this season.

Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two contests. He finished the regular season with with just 40 catches for 438 yards and no touchdowns but will have a chance to end the season on a more positive note.

Kamara contracted the coronavirus shortly after his record-tying Christmas Day performance. Despite not playing in Week 17, the fourth-year running back finished the season with a league-high 21 touchdowns — six of which coming against the Vikings in Kamara’s most recent outing.

New Orleans has been without key cogs throughout the season, losing Brees and Emmanuel Sanders at points as well. Ahead of what could be Brees’ final postseason run, the Saints will have their top guns in uniform.

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Saints Place WR Michael Thomas On IR

Michael Thomas is done for the regular season, but it sounds like he could be back in time for the playoffs. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Saints are placing their star wideout on injured reserve, noting that the Saints “expect him close to 100% for the start of the postseason.

Thomas has been dealing with an ankle injury since the start of the season. The high ankle sprain (along with a coinciding suspension for punching a teammate) sidelined him until Week 9.

Despite only playing alongside Drew Brees in two of the six games upon his return, Thomas has still hauled in 37 receptions for 421 yards over that span. He’s also been held without a touchdown this season. This has certainly been a change for one of the NFL’s most consistent players over the past few years. The former second-round pick had only missed two games coming into this season and entered 2020 coming off a record 149-reception 2019 slate.

The Saints were also able to establish an eight-game win streak during Thomas’ absence. And while they are home underdogs to the Chiefs in Week 15, the team will be favored to beat the Vikings and Panthers without its All-Pro wideout. New Orleans won two games without Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders earlier this season. Sanders, however, is healthy now. The free agent acquisition and Tre’Quan Smith will be Brees’ top available wideouts for the regular season’s remainder.

That said, the Saints have won one road playoff game in franchise history. Thomas’ absence will make it more difficult for New Orleans to earn the NFC’s lone bye, potentially forcing the Saints to play on the road in the conference title game — should they advance that far in the playoffs.

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Saints’ Michael Thomas To Miss Week 15

While Drew Brees will be back for the Saints this week, he will not have his top target available. The Saints have ruled Michael Thomas out for their Week 15 game against the Chiefs.

The first half of Thomas’ season wound up marred by multiple injuries and a team-imposed suspension, but the All-Pro wide receiver returned in Week 9 and has not missed time since. More ankle trouble, however, will keep the fifth-year star on the sidelines Sunday.

Thomas did not practice this week. He entered this season as one of the NFL’s most dependable wideouts, having missed just two games in four years. Taysom Hill targeted Thomas frequently during his four starts, with two of those producing 100-plus-yard games. Last week, Thomas caught eight passes for 84 yards. He will enter the Saints’ Christmas game — should he be cleared to return by next week — without a touchdown reception.

This is a clear blow for a Saints team that is a rare home underdog against the 12-1 Chiefs. The 10-3 Saints losing Sunday would likely prevent them from securing the NFC’s bye. New Orleans, however, won four straight games without Thomas earlier this year — and two of those victories came with Emmanuel Sanders out as well — but the Chiefs are a tougher beat than any team the Saints have defeated this season.

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Trade Rumors: Thomas, Njoku, Watt, Jets

Saints head coach Sean Payton has said his team has no interest in trading star receiver Michael Thomas, though Thomas’ camp was recently said to be looking for potential deals. There has been no movement towards a Thomas trade, and whether that’s because New Orleans has no interest in dealing him or because the club has not received an offer it likes, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Thomas will stay put.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more rumors on players who could be on the move:

  • The Browns don’t want to trade tight end David Njoku, but Njoku has renewed his request to be dealt, and Rapoport says Cleveland has been fielding calls on the former first-rounder. It may take at least a fourth-round pick to get a deal done, but with Austin Hooper set to return and with the emergence of rookie Harrison Bryant, the Browns may elect to move Njoku.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans are at the center of the trade market, with one executive saying Houston could move as many as five players if it wants to. Rapoport expects the Packersinterest in Will Fuller — which dates back to the summer — to ramp up, but it will likely take a high pick to convince the Texans to move Fuller. Fellow WR Kenny Stills has also drawn some interest, though rival clubs see the contracts for Stills and Randall Cobb as prohibitive. DE J.J. Watt may be receptive to a trade, but considering his contract and age, other teams probably don’t value him like the Texans do.
  • The Jets have received calls on LB Avery Williamson, OTs George Fant and Chuma Edoga, and CB Quincy Wilson, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says the Steelers — who recently lost Devin Bush for the season — could be in the market for Williamson, and Edoga also seems like a good bet to be dealt since he does not look like a fit with the current regime.
  • La Canfora says teams have also called the Jets about WR Breshad Perriman and TE Chris Herndon, though Breer notes that safety Marcus Maye has not drawn much interest.
  • Rapoport names Dolphins RB Jordan Howard and Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister as two other players who could be moved. And though the Bengals are shopping disgruntled wideout John Ross, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com says there hasn’t been interest in Ross (Twitter link).

Saints To Place Emmanuel Sanders On Reserve/COVID-19 List

Nov. 1: Although Sanders will miss the Saints’ game against the Bears today, he is recovering and is expected to rejoin his club for its critical divisional matchup with the Bucs on November 8 (Twitter link via Schefter).

Oct. 23: The Saints’ wide receiver issues have continued into Week 7. They are placing Emmanuel Sanders on their reserve/COVID-19 list, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This will sideline Sanders for New Orleans’ Week 7 game against Carolina. With Michael Thomas encountering a hamstring issue this week, the Saints will be without their top two wideouts. They declared Thomas out with the hamstring malady. This will be his fifth straight absence.

Players who land on the reserve/COVID-19 list must isolate for at least five days. This will put New Orleans in an unusual position. Coming into this season, Thomas had missed just one game since arriving in 2016. His latest issue will result in the Saints’ receiving corps being unusually shorthanded.

The Saints gave Sanders a two-year, $16MM deal to fill their years-long need for a proven No. 2 wide receiver. Tre’Quan Smith will now slide up to the No. 1 spot.

Thomas practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday but did not participate Thursday or Friday. He missed Weeks 2-4 because of an ankle injury and was down in Week 5 because of a team-imposed suspension. Sanders helped fill Thomas’ role, despite a slow start. He has 18 receptions for 215 yards in the past two games.

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No Trade Offers For Saints’ Michael Thomas?

Depending on who you ask, the Saints might be willing to trade Michael Thomas before the deadline. The wide receiver’s camp is working to find potential deals but, so far, the Saints have yet to receive a concrete offer for the superstar, according to PFT’s Mike Florio.

[RELATED: Saints Deny Thomas Trade Talk]

Thomas’ talent is undeniable, but his contract stands as a major hurdle. A Thomas trade would lead to a $20MM cap charge in 2021, a hit that would be compounded by Drew Brees‘ potential $22.65MM hit. If Thomas gets traded and Brees retires, the Saints would be left with $42.65MM in dead money for two players that are not on the roster.

Thomas inked a massive five-year, $100MM extension in July of 2019 that made him the highest-paid receiver of all time. Lately, he’s been at odds with the team, including a Week 5 benching for an altercation with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during practice. He’s also been limited due to injuries, including a high ankle sprain and a hamstring issue.

All in all, Thomas has appeared in just one game for New Orleans this year, giving him a stat line of three catches for 17 yards. There’s still reason to believe that Thomas can duplicate last year’s production, though he won’t match the stat line. In 2019, Thomas finished with a single-season-record of 149 receptions to go along 1,725 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

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Extra Points: Newton, Gase, Thomas

The Patriots took an ugly loss Sunday as they got demolished 33-6 by the visiting 49ers. Things got so bad that Jarrett Stidham came in and replaced Cam Newton somewhat early in the fourth quarter and played the rest of the game. Newton had just 98 yards and three interceptions before exiting, but he isn’t in any danger of losing his starting job at the moment. Head coach Bill Belichick said after the game that Newton was “absolutely” still his starter.

He added that he just wanted to get the youngster Stidham some more game experience by throwing him out there in a contest that was already decided. Newton now has five interceptions and no passing touchdowns over his past two games since returning from catching COVID-19. It’s unclear whether the virus messed with his conditioning or if anything else is ailing him, but his play has dropped off dramatically from his hot start as a member of the Patriots. Whatever the case, it doesn’t sound like Belichick is planning on making a switch under center anytime soon.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Adam Gase first conceded publicly that he was mulling giving up play-calling duties a couple of weeks ago, and he finally made the plunge on Sunday. Gase handed off the responsibilities to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for their Week 7 game against the Bills, Brian Costello of the New York Post reports. New York got off to a hot start and they actually led Buffalo at halftime, before completely collapsing and only gaining four total yards in the second half. The last 30 minutes may have changed Gase’s mind, and he said after the game that play-calling will be a week to week decision. He also insisted the decision to give it up was his and his alone.
  • Major waves were made last week when we heard that the Saints could potentially be open to trading Michael Thomas in the wake of his antics that got him suspended for one game for fighting a teammate in practice, but it doesn’t sound like New Orleans’ leadership is seriously considering the idea. Head coach Sean Payton immediately responded to a tweet about the report, mocking the idea that actual ‘insiders’ said any such thing (link via Katherine Terrell of the Athletic). While Thomas probably won’t be dealt he is still hurt, and now Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that there’s a good chance Thomas isn’t ready for Week 8 against the Bears due to his hamstring injury. Thomas tweaked his hamstring while working his way back from the high ankle sprain he suffered back in Week 1. With Emmanuel Sanders on the COVID-19 list, the Saints could be without each of their top two wideouts still when they go up against a tough Chicago defense next week.
  • After rookie Sam Sloman has looked quite shaky to start the year, the Rams went out and signed kicker Kai Forbath earlier this week. But since Forbath wasn’t able to enter the facility until today due to COVID-19 protocols, he won’t be the kicker for their Monday Night Football game against the Bears. That means Sloman will have at least one more chance to prove he deserves the job. Under the bright lights of a nationally televised game with his competition breathing down his neck, the pressure will certainly be on.

Saints “Could Be Willing To Move” WR Michael Thomas

Could an unexpected name be on the move before the November 3rd trade deadline? Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com writes that the Saints “could be willing to move” wideout Michael Thomas. Florio notes that the feeling may also be shared by Thomas, who “could be interested in moving.”

For starters, there are some massive financial hurdles to consider from New Orleans’ side. As Florio details, a Thomas trade would lead to a $20MM cap charge in 2021, and couple that without a potential Drew Brees retirement/$22.65MM charge, the Saints could be eyeing $42.65MM in cap charges for two players who aren’t on their team. Thomas inked a massive five-year, $100MM extension in July of 2019 that made him the highest-paid receiver of all time. The contract was slightly restructured back in March.

Of course, those difficulties would be reflected in the hypothetical trade haul the Saints receive; as Florio notes, those financial complications don’t make a trade impossible. After all, the Saints would only accept an offer they couldn’t refuse for the star receiver, and the impending picks in a trade would somewhat make up for the pricey cap charges.

The fact that the Saints would even listen to offers is a bit telling, especially since Thomas appears to be on thin ice in New Orleans. He was benched in Week 5 (and fined a game check) after punching Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during a fight at practice. Thomas has also been limited to only one game after suffering a high ankle sprain, and a new hamstring injury will sideline him for this weekend’s game against the Panthers.

Of course, few suitors would put too much stock into his current production (three receptions, 17 yards). Instead, they’ll look at his incredible 2019 campaign where he finished with a single-season-record 149 receptions to go along 1725 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

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