Michael Thomas (WR)

Saints To Retain WR Michael Thomas

The Saints and Michael Thomas will, in fact, stick together for an eighth season. Viewed as being on the way out of New Orleans after an offseason restructure, Thomas is now on track to stay.

Thomas agreed to a reworked one-year deal to stay with the Saints on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will be an incentive-laden deal, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com adds the Saints are giving the former All-Pro wideout $10MM in base value (Twitter link). The deal can spike to $15MM through the aforementioned incentives.

Following the Saints’ Derek Carr signing, Thomas sent out a few tweets praising the move. The Saints had been in negotiations with Thomas over the weekend, and the progress has led to another agreement. This is a far cry from the five-year, $96.25MM extension Thomas was attached to before a January restructure, but the former All-Pro has run into consistent injury trouble that has sidetracked his career.

New Orleans put faith in Thomas again last year, despite his 2020 injury trouble and full-season 2021 absence, but another round of health setbacks ensued. Thomas played in three games last season, with a lingering toe injury sending him to IR. The Saints have missed their former No. 1 wideout over the past three seasons, and his return would now seemingly put him behind Chris Olave in the team’s wideout pecking order.

Thomas, 30, will enter the coming season four years removed from his historic 2019 campaign. That year, he set the all-time NFL record for receptions in a season (149), and led the league in yards with 1,725. That came immediately after a year in which he posted a 125-1404-9 statline, and confirmed his status as one of the league’s top offensive players at any position when healthy.

The frequency with which he has been sidelined since then, though, has led to speculation about his Saints future, and, to no surprise, this new, relatively modest deal. A bounce-back season would not only help Olave (who topped 1,000 yards as a rookie last year) and the rest of the team perform with more consistency in the passing game, but also allow Thomas to rebuild his own value. With a new quarterback and now a (potentially) high-end wideout in place for 2023, the Saints could be in line for a notable step forward on offense.

Saints Approaching Deadline On Extension For WR Michael Thomas

The Saints are facing down the clock as they attempt to negotiate an extension with veteran wide receiver Michael Thomas, resulting in some productive talks but not quite sealing the deal, according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. The progress is crucial as the team approaches the self-imposed deadline set up in Thomas’s restructured contract.

When New Orleans restructured the former All-Pro’s five-year, $96.25MM deal earlier this year, it set up a timebomb due to detonate on the third day of the new league year, which falls on March 17. When the team moved almost $14.5MM from his 2023 base salary to his 2024 roster bonus, it put immediate pressure on the Saints’ brass to get a new deal done.

Thomas’s new 2024 roster bonus, again, due in six days, currently measures $31.755MM. If the Saints and Thomas are unable to reach an agreement for an extension by March 17, the roster bonus becomes guaranteed and immediately hamstrings the team with a massive amount of dead money implications.

If the team were to release Thomas as a pre-June 1 cut, an almost unthinkable possibility, the team would be shouldered with almost $50MM in dead cap over the next four years. Designating him as a post-June 1 cut would lessen the dead money to just over $26MM and provide the Saints with cap savings of $1.37MM in 2023 and $6.19MM in 2024.

Thomas is long removed from the 2019 season that saw him lead the NFL in receptions (149) and receiving yards (1,725), playing in only ten games since receiving all of his accolades for that year. He did display a spark of that talent in the three games he played this season, but the emergence of rookies Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed in his absence has made Thomas’s presence more icing than cake.

The restructuring initially had many under the impression that New Orleans intended to part ways with the former Offensive Player of the Year, but with Underhill’s most recent report, it appears that the two parties are attempting to prolong their partnership. Regardless of their decision, Thomas’s current contact is untenable, and the deadline to make a decision that the team set up for itself is fast approaching.

Saints, WR Michael Thomas Agree To Restructured Deal

Michael Thomas has reworked his contract, setting up a significant decision for the Saints heading into the 2023 league year. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the wide receiver and the Saints agreed to a restructured deal that provides the organization with some additional flexibility to move off the contract this upcoming offseason.

Specifically, Thomas reduced his 2023 base salary from $15.5MM to $1.165MM. In exchange, the wideout now has a $31.755MM 2024 roster bonus that’s due on the third day of the 2023 league year (March 17, 2023). For participating, the Saints gave Thomas a $900K signing bonus.

As Yates explains, this reworking assures that the Saints’ decision on the receiver’s future “will be done expediently.” If that $32MM roster bonus becomes guaranteed, the front office would be left with a prohibitive amount of dead cap. If the team decides to cut the receiver (which would likely be designated as a post-June 1 cut), the team would have an extra $14MM in cap flexibility thanks to today’s maneuverings. The organization would still be left with more than $25MM in dead cap, but those extra savings would still be significant for a team that’s projected to be over the cap.

If Thomas is cut, he’d immediately become a free agent. Considering the March 17 deadline, this would allow the wideout to negotiate with teams before standard free agent receivers. The Saints could realistically keep Thomas and still realize today’s savings, but such a route would set the team up for a hefty financial commitment during the 2024 campaign.

In simpler terms, it’s the general consensus that today’s contract restructuring will ultimately lead to the Saints parting ways with the wide receiver this offseason. Thomas hasn’t been productive and/or healthy in three seasons, so it’s unlikely that the Saints would make a financial commitment for a fourth questionable season, much less a fifth season. Plus, thanks to the development of Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, the team isn’t as reliant on Thomas’s upside, especially with a roster that seems to be focused towards the future.

The receiver has a prolific 2019 campaign that saw him collect 149 receptions for 1,725 receiving yards, leading to Offensive Player of the Years honors. Since then, Thomas has been limited to 10 games across three seasons, contributing only 56 receptions for 609 yards. Entering what would be his age-30 season, Thomas can’t expect a hefty pay day when he inevitably reaches free agency, but there should still be plenty of contenders lining up for his services.

Trade Deadline Notes: Burns, R. Smith, 49ers

The trade deadline passed on Tuesday, but reports of near-deals and trade talks featuring high-profile players continue to trickle in. Though the NFL trade deadline may never produce the anticipation that the MLB deadline seems to generate, NFL front offices are increasingly amenable to making deals, and this year’s deadline day brought with it 10 trades and 12 players changing teams, both league records. As Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, that type of activity is wildly popular among fans and therefore good for business, and Yates’ ESPN colleague, Adam Schefter, says multiple clubs have reached out to the league office this week to discuss the possibility of moving future deadlines to later dates.

In 2012, the league pushed the deadline back two weeks, from the Tuesday after Week 6 to the Tuesday after Week 8. Another move could see the deadline moved to sometime after Week 10 or Week 12, which would presumably produce even more trades. The idea is that, the later the deadline, the more clarity teams will have with respect to their status as a playoff contender, which will lead to more trade activity. Schefter hears that the issue will be raised at the general manager committee meetings later this month.

Now for more fallout and other notes from this year’s deadline extravaganza:

  • Teams were perhaps most interested in improving their receiving talent at the deadline, as players like Chase ClaypoolCalvin RidleyKadarius Toney, and T.J. Hockenson changed hands on or before deadline day, and big names like Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.J. Moore generated conversations as well. According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the aggression on that front was inspired at least in part by a weak 2023 class of free agent receivers headlined by the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Deonte Harty, Nelson Agholor, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a related note, Joel Corry of CBS Sports believes that, if the Saints choose to move on from Michael Thomas this offseason, they may find a number of suitors, despite Thomas’ recent injury woes (Twitter link).
  • It was indeed the Rams who were willing to trade two first-round picks to the Panthers in exchange for DE Brian Burns, as Jones writes in a separate piece. Confirming prior reports, Jones says Los Angeles offered its 2024 and 2025 first-round selections — the team is without a 2023 first-round pick to due to last year’s Matthew Stafford trade — and he adds that the club also included a 2023 second-round choice in its final proposal. Carolina gave serious consideration to the offer, but it ultimately elected to hold onto Burns, which will increase the player’s leverage in offseason extension talks. Per Jones, Burns is likely to land a deal that far exceeds the $110MM pact that the Dolphins recently authorized for their own deadline acquisition, Bradley Chubb.
  • Speaking of the Panthers, we learned earlier today that the club also turned down a first-round pick for Moore. The Panthers’ reticence to trade its young talent (aside from Christian McCaffrey, of course) was on full display at the deadline, and while the decisions to retain Moore and Burns were certainly defensible, every executive with whom Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post spoke was shocked that the club did not pull the trigger on Burns. “I can’t believe they turned [the Rams’ offer] down. Now they almost have to pay him whatever he wants because everyone knows they turned down two [first-round picks] for him,” one GM said. Apparently, cornerback Donte Jackson also drew some trade interest, though another GM said the Panthers were asking too much for him as well.
  • The 49ersacquisition of McCaffrey will necessitate some “bean-counting creativity” from GM John Lynch this offseason, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle opines. The team’s impending cap crunch, intensified by McCaffrey’s $12MM cap hit for 2023, will make it more difficult for the club to retain QB Jimmy Garoppolo — though that may not have been in the cards anyway — and RT Mike McGlinchey.
  • Bears head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged that one of the reasons his team traded linebacker Roquan Smith is because of Smith’s lack of ball production relative to his peers, particularly the peers who have contracts that Smith wants to top, as Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Compared to fellow 2018 draftee and three-time First Team All-Pro Shaquille Leonard, for instance, Smith has five fewer interceptions (seven), 16 fewer forced fumbles (one), and six fewer fumble recoveries (one) over the course of his career.
  • The Lionstrade of Hockenson will naturally create more playing time for second-year pro Brock Wright — who is expected to step into the starting TE role — and fifth-round rookie James Mitchell, as Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website notes. Mitchell, who is still strengthening and rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered as a collegian at Virginia Tech in 2021, has played just 21 offensive snaps this season but offers big-play upside at the tight end position.

Saints To Place Michael Thomas On IR; WR Not Expected To Return In 2022

Michael Thomas has already missed the Saints’ past five games. The Saints ensured Thursday he will miss at least four more, preparing to place their former All-Pro weapon on IR. But Dennis Allen indicated this is a more serious issue — one that a four-game IR stay will not address.

A complication in Thomas’ recovery from a toe injury will lead to the IR placement, per ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). That complication appears severe, with Allen adding he does not expect Thomas to play again this season. The 29-year-old wideout will undergo surgery, Terrell tweets.

This continues a tough period for Thomas, who has missed much of the 2020s due to injury. After missing just two games over his first four seasons, Thomas will have missed 40 over the past three. His future with the Saints is certainly in doubt in the wake of this news.

New Orleans received tremendous value from Thomas during the late 2010s. After a few teams misfired on wideout picks in the 2016 first round, the Saints found a gem in Round 2 of that draft. Thomas ascended to the All-Pro level in 2018 and broke Marvin Harrison‘s 17-year-old single-season reception record a year later. As Drew Brees continued to play at a high level in his late 30s and into his early 40s, he depended on Thomas. That partnership earned the Ohio State product a big-ticket extension. Unfortunately, injuries have ruined most of his time on this deal.

The Saints gave Thomas a five-year, $96.25MM deal before the 2019 season, and he rewarded them with that record-setting 149-reception campaign. But injuries began to crop up in 2020. Week 1 of that season began the trouble, with Thomas suffering a high ankle sprain that day. He then encountered a midseason hamstring injury, but the ankle trouble lingered into 2021. Thomas held off on undergoing ankle surgery until summer 2021 — months after the Saints wanted that operation to take place — and ran into a new ankle injury during the ’21 season.

Because the Saints restructured Thomas’ deal more than once, a high dead-money hit would come if/when the team releases him. A $25MM-plus dead-cap hit would follow a 2023 Thomas release, but the Saints could drop that to just more than $11MM by designating Thomas as a post-June 1 cut. That would spread the cap hit over the 2023 and ’24 league years.

Optimism existed coming into this season. Thomas had recovered from the career-sidetracking ankle ordeal and caught three touchdown passes in the first three weeks this season — including two during a comeback win over the Falcons. The four-time 1,000-yard receiver caught 16 passes for 171 yards in New Orleans’ first three games, but the toe problem then intervened. Thomas’ unavailability will make it difficult for the Saints to keep him — barring a major pay cut. His $28.3MM cap number is tops on the Saints’ 2023 payroll.

The Saints, who were eagerly awaiting to deploy their transformed receiving corps this season, have needed to get by without both Thomas and Jarvis Landry for much of this year. Landry is not on IR, but the free agency addition has missed the past four games with an ankle malady. Landry did return to practice this week, and it would obviously be a boon for New Orleans’ offense if the ninth-year veteran returned in Week 9. Landry will be needed more than the Saints anticipated, though first-round pick Chris Olave has produced when available for the team.

Saints Rule Out Five Starters For Week 7

While their opponent has added a pair of contributors in DeAndre Hopkins and Robbie Anderson, the Saints will come into Thursday down five more starters than they were hoping for, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Injuries continue to plague New Orleans as it has ruled out wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, tight end Adam Trautman, guard Andrus Peat, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

Peat suffered a pectoral strain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Saints have not placed the eighth-year blocker on IR, but he is week-to-week at this point. Thomas also remains on the team’s active roster, but the team considered placing him on IR due to the foot injury he sustained, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. The Saints instead opted to keep Thomas active in case he beat his recovery timetable. After missing just two games over his first four seasons, Thomas has now missed 28 games since 2020.

The Saints, who were hoping to get back Thomas from a three-week absence and Landry from a two-week absence, will now go into their Week 7 matchup with the Cardinals missing two of their starting slate of receivers for the third week in a row. Rookie first-round pick Chris Olave is set to return after missing time last week with a concussion that knocked him out of the team’s Week 5 win over the Seahawks.

Olave is set to see a huge share of targets with Thomas and Landry out, as will backup receivers Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith. Behind star running back Alvin Kamara and Juwan Johnson, who transitioned to tight end in the NFL after playing wide receiver at Penn State, Callaway and Smith were the top targets last week for Andy Dalton, who has been filling in for injured starting quarterback Jameis Winston. When Olave was in the week before, he matched Kamara for the team lead in targets with six apiece. Smith and Callaway trailed the two with four and three, respectively.

Lattimore is also set to miss his second straight game with an abdomen injury. In his absence last week, the Saints asked veteran Bradley Roby to fill in opposite Paulson Adebo as a starting cornerback. They’re also able to get some help at corner from the practice squad with veteran defensive back Chris Harris who has been called up for two games so far this year.

The Saints will have tough hill to climb in a game that could be a big step in staying in the thick of the NFC South race. The five missing starters will be in addition to the nine players currently recovering on injured reserve. If New Orleans can keep the division in reach until it starts getting big contributors back on the field, the Saints could have a path back to the playoffs after missing out last year.

Saints To Start Andy Dalton In Week 5

The Saints are planning to turn to Andy Dalton for a second straight week. Jameis Winston will be held out again, according to Dennis Allen. The New Orleans starting quarterback remains down due to back and ankle issues.

Winston played earlier this season with four fractures in his back, leading to obvious concerns about his status going forward. Allen said after the Saints’ Week 3 loss in Carolina he was not considering sidelining his starter, but this will mark back-to-back starts for Dalton since those comments.

Michael Thomas will also miss the Saints’ Week 5 matchup against the Seahawks. Thomas missed New Orleans’ London game due to a foot injury. Sunday will double as Thomas’ 27th missed game since September 2020. The All-Pro wide receiver missed two games during his first four NFL seasons.

Dalton, 34, went 20 of 28 for 236 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. The Saints signed the former Bengals, Cowboys and Bears quarterback weeks into free agency, giving the 12th-year veteran a one-year, $3MM deal. That move has proven to be rather important, as Winston has encountered more health issues. Dalton gives the Saints a better safety net compared to the ones Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill provided.

Prior to his ACL tear, Winston injury updates were uncommon. Following his Tampa Bay availability, however, Winston has been unable to stay on the field with New Orleans. The former No. 1 overall pick re-signed with the Saints on a somewhat surprising two-year, $28MM deal ($15.2MM guaranteed) this offseason. He had discussed terms with the Colts, but his Saints recommitment came after Indianapolis traded for Matt Ryan, thus narrowing Winston’s options. Sunday stands to mark Winston’s 12th missed game since becoming the Saints’ post-Drew Brees starter.

Saints WR Michael Thomas Out For Week 4; QB Andy Dalton To Start

OCTOBER 1: The Saints confirmed on Saturday that Winston is indeed out, meaning that Dalton will make his Saints debut Sunday morning.

SEPTEMBER 30: When they take on the Vikings in London on Sunday, the Saints will be without at least their top wide receiver, and, in all likelihood, their starting quarterback as well. Head coach Dennis Allen confirmed on Friday that Michael Thomas is out for the game due to a foot injury; Jameis Winston, meanwhile, did not practice for the third consecutive day and is listed as doubtful. 

Thomas had just returned to full health after missing most of the past two seasons with lingering ankle issues. His presence, along with that of free agent signing Jarvis Landry and first-round rookie Chris Olave, led to heightened expectations for the Saints’ offense. The former Offensive Player of the Year started all three of New Orleans’ games to start the year, recording 16 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns.

Winston has been dealing with spinal fractures so far this season, but this would be the first game action he missed in the event he cannot suit up. That, too, would represent a notable setback given his season-ending ACL tear from last season. His absence, along with that of Thomas, greatly contributed to the Saints’ passing offense finishing as the league’s worst in 2021.

To guard against a repeat of that taking place, even if Winston were to miss time, New Orleans added Andy Dalton in free agency. Given the impression the 34-year-old made on the team during training camp, it would come as no surprise if he got the nod over a banged-up Winston on Sunday. Allen further indicated that the Saints are prepared to have Dalton make his New Orleans debut when speaking to the media.

“Our plan right now is to have Andy ready to go,” he said, via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell“We’ll see how things go overnight, but Andy will be ready to go if that’s the direction that we go.” 

Dalton spent one season with the Cowboys in 2020 and the Bears in 2021 as he has transitioned into a backup. He still saw a combined total of 19 appearances and 15 starts over that stretch, though, earning him a one-year deal with the Saints worth up to $6MM. It appears Sunday will be his first opportunity to demonstrate his value, albeit with a shorthanded group of pass-catchers available to him.

The Saints also ruled out guard Andrus Peat and safety Marcus Maye due to a concussion and rib injury, respectively. With that pair, along with Thomas and (probably) Winston sidelined, they will look to get to 2-2 on the year against Minnesota.

Saints’ Michael Thomas Returns To Practice

Saints GM Mickey Loomis said Michael Thomas‘ stay on the team’s active/PUP list would not last long. That translated to a rather notable transaction Wednesday.

Thomas was back at practice for the Saints, marking a long-awaited return after the former All-Pro had missed the entire offseason program and the bulk of New Orleans’ 2020s game action. A Thomas return would give the Saints one of the NFL’s most intriguing wideout crews, with Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave on this year’s roster.

When Thomas last played a full season, he finished as the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after breaking Marvin Harrison‘s single-season reception record. A spate of injuries — headlined by a troublesome ankle ailment — have headlined Thomas’ 2020s career path. Thomas, 29, missed all of last season after undergoing surgery later than the Saints hoped he would. A subsequent setback that occurred during the season caused Thomas to be shut down for all of 2021.

His missing a second straight offseason program this year certainly represented cause for concern, but if the All-Pro playmaker can distance himself from this period, a path toward the Saints deploying one of the NFL’s best skill-position groups is in play. There are notable moving parts here. Thomas initially suffered his ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This being a storyline nearly two years later remains an issue for the Saints, who have Alvin Kamara potentially set for a six-game suspension.

Prior to Thomas’ injury-plagued 2020 ending with just 438 receiving yards, he ripped off back-to-back All-Pro campaigns. The second of which included an NFL-most 1,725 yards. That performance came just after the Saints gave Thomas a five-year, $96.25MM extension. Thanks to restructuring, Thomas is on New Orleans’ 2022 payroll at $13MM. That number spikes to $28.3MM in 2023.

Saints Place WR Michael Thomas, DE Marcus Davenport On PUP

A pair of Saints players have landed on PUP ahead of training camp. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the Saints have placed wideout Michael Thomas and defensive end Marcus Davenport on the physically unable to perform list.

Thomas’s placement on PUP seems mostly procedural after he’s been limited to only seven games over the past two seasons. We heard last month that the wideout had progressed to running sprints, and the wideout recently posted a video that showed him running routes. The Saints have expressed optimism that Thomas will be back at some point during training camp, so it doesn’t seem like this delay will end up working its way into the preseason.

The last time the wideout was fully healthy, he was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after hauling in 149 receptions for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. The receiver’s lengthy absence stems from a high ankle sprain suffered during the Saints’ 2020 season opener. The injury continued to linger, and while the Saints wanted Thomas to immediately go under the knife once the 2020 season ended, the player decided to hold off on surgery until last summer. The subsequent rehab plus a new ankle injury derailed any chance that he’d be able to return for the 2021 campaign.

Davenport’s placement on PUP is equally unsurprising, but it’s uncertain how long the veteran defensive lineman will be sidelined. We heard recently that Davenport had a pair of surgeries on his knee and three surgeries on his left hand just this offseason. Davenport had a stint on IR last season while dealing with a shoulder ailment, so his two surgeries were likely intended to fix that injury. Meanwhile, Davenport said he’s been dealing with a pinkie injury that dates back to college, but the injury has progressively gotten worse and culminated in Davenport having part of the finger amputated.

The 2018 first-round pick has spent his entire career with New Orleans, missing 17 games in four seasons. While he was limited to only 11 games (nine starts) last season, he still finished with career-highs in tackles (39), sacks (nine), and forced fumbles (three). In total, Davenport has 21 sacks in 48 games.