Michael Thomas (WR)

Saints Planning On Michael Thomas Training Camp Return

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.

Saints Create $26MM+ In Cap Space Via Restructures

The Saints entered the offseason significantly over the cap, but they’re already starting to create some breathing room. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the Saints created $26.217MM in cap space by reworking the contracts of wideout Michael Thomas and offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

Specifically, they converted $14.56MM of Thomas’ 2022 compensation and $18.20MM of Ramczyk‘s upcoming compensation into signing bonuses. The Saints entered the offseason a projected $74MM over the cap, but they have the ability to open a significant chunk of money (with some estimates saying they could save $100M via restructures). In other words, this is surely just the beginning for New Orleans’ front office.

Thomas led the league in receptions in 2018 and ’19, but following a disappointing 2020 campaign, the veteran receiver missed the entire 2021 season. Despite Thomas upsetting Saints brass by delaying an offseason ankle surgery last year, he remains in the team’s 2022 plans. While this does not necessarily guarantee the veteran pass catcher will be with the Saints next season, the team could certainly use him following an underwhelming season from the team’s other non-Alvin Kamara pass catchers.

Ramczyk was a first-round pick by the Saints in 2017, and he’s started all 73 of his games through his first five years in the NFL. The Saints inked the lineman to a five-year, $96MM deal (including $60MM in guaranteed money) last offseason.

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 NFL.com (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.

Saints’ Michael Thomas Done For Year

Michael Thomas‘ season is over. On Wednesday, the Saints star announced that he will not be able to return from his multiple ankle injuries in 2021. 

I’ve always been a man of faith and these past few months my faith has truly been tested,” Thomas tweeted. “As many of you know, early last season I injured my ankle and worked extremely hard over the next few months to get back in time to finish the season. Unfortunately, the rehab didn’t go as planned and earlier this offseason it was apparent I would need to have a procedure to repair the injury.

Since then, the team and I have worked diligently, day and night to rehab and get me back on the field. Unfortunately, there has been another small setback which we will have to address. To my displeasure, I will not be able to make it back in time for this season but will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been.

Thomas fought through ankle trouble last year but still only managed to suit up for seven games. The Saints then urged him to undergo surgery ASAP, but he waited until the summer to go under the knife. That course of action didn’t pay off — Thomas will have to spend the remainder of the year rehabbing with an eye on 2022.

The wide receiver likely knew his season was over sometime before today. Ditto for the Saints, who worked diligently to trade for a wide receiver before Tuesday’s deadline. Had the rest of the league known Thomas’ status, the asking price would have been significantly higher. Turns out, the market was already too rich for the Saints’ blood — they tried to deal for Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and others, but couldn’t make a deal before the buzzer.

Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two career games. Then, in Week 1 of last year, Thomas’ high ankle sprain — coupled with a mid-season hamstring injury — changed everything. The last couple of years have been tumultuous to say the least. Health aside, the Saints also had to bench Thomas after he struck a teammate in practice.

Thomas capped his 2020 with just 40 catches for 438 yards, plus five receptions for 73 yards and one score in the Saints’ playoff win over the Bears. This year, he’ll close with a 0/0/0 line. Thanks to his five-year, $100MM deal, he remains under club control through 2024.

Saints’ Michael Thomas Dealing With New Ankle Injury

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is dealing with a new ankle malady, according to sources who spoke with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). That would help to explain why the Saints explored trades for wide receivers on Tuesday, including Browns star Odell Beckham Jr.

[RELATED: Saints Tried To Trade For OBJ]

Thomas recently became eligible to return off of the PUP list, but it’s not clear when he’ll actually be able to suit up. Even with Tre’Quan Smith back in action, the Saints’ offense clearly misses Thomas. Marquez Callaway currently stands as the Saints’ top receiver with 284 yards, ahead of Smith, Deonte Harris, Ty Montgomery, Kenny Stills, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey (currently on the COVID list).

Thomas’ original ankle injury limited him to seven games last year, a disappointing follow-up to consecutive first-team All-Pro seasons, including 2019 when he set the all-time single-season reception record with 149 grabs.

Meanwhile, the Saints will also be without quarterback Jameis Winston for the rest of the season. That’ll leave either Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill under center — not old foe Cam Newton or the retired Drew Brees.

Saints Designate LB Kwon Alexander, DE Marcus Davenport, WR Tre’Quan Smith For Return

The Saints are about to get some reinforcement. The team designated linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Marcus Davenport, and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith for return from injured reserve today, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

Alexander (elbow) and Davenport (shoulder) were both placed on IR in mid-September, meaning the earliest they could have returned was Week 5.

The Saints moved Davenport back into their starting lineup to start this season, providing the player with an opportunity to re-establish himself opposite Cameron Jordan. Davenport registered a sack and two QB hits in the Saints’ dominant Week 1 win over the Packers.

Alexander worked his way back from a December Achilles tear to be ready in time for the Saints’ opener, but this latest injury continued a rough run of health for the former Buccaneers standout. Alexander suffered a torn ACL in 2018, though he still landed a nice contract from the 49ers. However, the veteran linebacker sustained a pectoral muscle tear in his first 49ers season.

Smith landed on IR a bit earlier than his defensive teammates after suffering a hamstring injury. The injury dogged Smith for several weeks, as he tried and failed to come back from it twice. It caused the former third-round pick to miss extensive training camp time.

While the Saints will happily welcome back this trio, they’ll still be without one of the most notable players. While wideout Michael Thomas was eligible to return from PUP this week, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport notes (via Twitter) that there hasn’t been any news on his potential activation.

Latest On Saints’ Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is still a few weeks away from returning to action (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The Saints star is already eligible to come off of the PUP list, but he can’t feasibly play again until sometime in November. 

[RELATED: Saints Release CB Desmond Trufant, Others]

The sixth-year standout underwent surgery later than the Saints wanted, causing a rift between the parties. While Thomas and Sean Payton are believed to be on better terms, the Saints are surely still annoyed with the receiver’s decision.

Thomas missed much of the 2020 slate due to injuries and a one-game suspension. His stock has dipped a bit, but he’s still not far removed from back-to-back first-team All-Pro seasons, including the NFL’s single-season reception record (149) in 2019.

The Saints are near the NFL cellar in passing yards, unfamiliar territory for one of the game’s most prolific aerial offenses. Until Thomas returns, they’ll forge ahead with Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Ty Montgomery, Chris Hogan, Kenny Stills, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey as their WRs.

Michael Thomas Expected To Start Season On Saints’ PUP List

Michael Thomas‘ foot injury will sideline him for nearly eight more weeks. The Saints are expected to stash their All-Pro wide receiver on the reserve/PUP list, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The sixth-year standout underwent surgery later than the Saints wanted, causing a rift between the parties. While Thomas and Sean Payton are believed to be on better terms, the Saints will still be in line to play their first five games without their top wide receiver. Thomas must miss the first six weeks, but the Saints have a Week 6 bye. This could allow Thomas to play in New Orleans’ final 12 games.

New Orleans is transitioning to a new quarterback for the first time in 15 years, moving from Drew Brees to Jameis Winston. After the team rostered Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last year, Winston will not have the same weapons Brees did. That said, Thomas missed much of the 2020 slate due to injuries and a one-game suspension. His stock has dipped a bit after posting back-to-back first-team All-Pro seasons and setting the NFL’s single-season reception record (149) in 2019.

In addition to Thomas’ absence, the Saints were without Tre’Quan Smith for a chunk of training camp. While Marquez Callaway has played well and stands to be a key target for Winston, the Sanders release and Thomas’ surgery decision will leave the Saints more vulnerable at wideout than they have been going into a season in many years.

Latest On Saints WR Michael Thomas

It sounds like tensions between Michael Thomas and the Saints are continuing to cool off. Following a meeting between the wideout and coach Sean Payton earlier this week, Thomas is expected to be in attendance for tonight’s preseason opener, reports Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com.

The writer notes that “Thomas’ attendance came at the request of Payton,” and Duncan wouldn’t be surprised if the two are seen standing together “in a show of solidarity.” Of course, while both sides could put on a fake smile for the press, this seems to be a positive development as the organization looks to overcome their recent fallout.

To review: Thomas is expected to miss a chunk of the Saints’ 2021 campaign due to a late-offseason ankle surgery, and Payton revealed that he would have preferred the receiver underwent the procedure earlier in the offseason in order to be ready for the upcoming campaign. Thomas later fired back at his coach’s comments, leading to the face-to-face meeting earlier this week. According to Duncan, the two sides had a “productive talk,” and everyone left the meeting “feeling positive about the interaction.”

From the organization’s perspective, it always made more sense to resolve the issues vs. trading Thomas elsewhere. For starters, the receiver’s trade value has plummeted; since he shattered the NFL single-season reception record, with 149 in 2019, the Ohio State product has run into injury issues on multiple fronts and was suspended for a game for fighting with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The past year has affected Thomas’ standing around the league, with two GMs telling Yahoo’s Charles Robinson that the receiver’s trade value has fallen to the point no first-round pick could be attached in a deal without protections.

Of course, Thomas is also out for a while, so no trade would be imminent, regardless. Further, if Thomas does make a full recovery, it makes sense for the Saints to keep him as they look to kick off the post-Drew Brees era with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill.

Saints, Michael Thomas Working To Resolve Issues

Continuing his downward trajectory from last season, Michael Thomas is expected to miss a chunk of the Saints’ 2021 campaign due to a late-offseason ankle surgery. The All-Pro wide receiver then sent out a tweet seemingly aimed at the Saints’ reaction to his medical decision, adding smoke to this simmering situation.

But cooler heads may prevail here. Thomas and Sean Payton met recently to discuss comments each made about this situation, according to Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson. Prior to Thomas’ tweet, Payton said he would have preferred his top wideout undergo surgery earlier this year in order to be ready for the season. The issue of Thomas ignoring Saints calls this offseason surely came up as well.

Both parties do not want this situation to escalate further, Robinson adds. This would be good news for the Saints, who are moving from one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history to a far less certain option under center. A Thomas trade would carry a significant dead-money charge as well.

Although other teams have moved past dead-money bloodbaths to separate from players — as in the cases of the Steelers (Antonio Brown), Rams (Jared Goff) and Eagles (Carson Wentz) — the Saints have depended on Thomas as their top target for years. They moved on from Emmanuel Sanders this offseason and do not have much behind Thomas in the way of reliable weaponry. Separating from the two-time All-Pro would leave Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill at an extreme disadvantage upon taking over for Drew Brees.

Thomas’ trade value has plummeted as well. Since he shattered the NFL single-season reception record, with 149 in 2019, the Ohio State product has run into injury issues on multiple fronts and was suspended for a game for fighting with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The past year has affected Thomas’ standing around the league, with two GMs expressing to Robinson a belief the receiver’s trade value has fallen to the point no first-round pick could be attached in a deal without protections. Another GM, however, added that a healthy Thomas would bring back a package of a first-round pick and change, which would be similar to the haul Stefon Diggs fetched last year. Since Thomas is not currently healthy, this is a moot point.