Source: Saints to keep Thomas on 1-year deal

  • Covered the NFL since 2013
  • Previously covered the Saints for the Times-Picayune and The Athletic
  • Bengals beat writer for ESPN from 2016-19

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints, in a surprise turn of events, will retain wide receiver Michael Thomas, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The sides have agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal that could pay Thomas up to $15 million, the source told Schefter.

Thomas’ release had been anticipated since Jan. 6, when the Saints worked with him to restructure his contract in a move that provided flexibility for both sides heading into the start of the league year.

Thomas, a 2016 second-round draft pick, was a key part of the Saints’ offense for the first four seasons of his career. He earned two first-team All-Pro nods during that span, made the Pro Bowl three times and was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he set the league record with 149 receptions in a season.

But his past three seasons had more downs than ups, as he has played in only 10 regular-season games since the start of the 2020 season — including just three in 2022 after being sidelined with a toe injury after Week 3.

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2020 season opener and missed the next three games. Just as he was set to return, he was benched after punching then-teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson. He wound up playing in just six games that season before going on injured reserve to rest up for the playoffs, where the Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round.

Thomas decided to delay surgery to repair a torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle until the following June, which led to a public spat with the team and former coach Sean Payton. Thomas spent the entire 2021 season on the physically unable to perform list after having a midseason setback that prevented him from returning.

When Saints coach Dennis Allen took over for Payton last spring, one of his priorities was to visit with Thomas in California. Thomas spent part of the spring working out with rookie wide receiver Chris Olave and made it back for the season opener, where he caught two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons.

Overall, Thomas has played 73 games with the Saints, catching 526 passes for 6,121 yards and 35 touchdowns.

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