The New Orleans Saints barely missed the playoffs last season. They could make a postseason push in 2022, but need Michael Thomas.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but Michael Thomas was once an elite receiver setting records.
From 2016-19, Thomas went for 470 receptions and 5,512 yards, notching three Pro Bowl appearances and two First-Team All-Pro nominations. In the final year of that stretch, the 6-foot-3, 212-pounder caught 149 passes, setting an all-time NFL record that still stands.
However, Thomas only played in seven games in 2020 and totaled 40 catches for 438 yards. His New Orleans Saints bowed out in the NFC Divisional round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went on to w in Super Bowl LV. Last year, Thomas missed the entire season as his ankle hadn’t healed from a prior surgery.
Now, with the Saints beginning their OTAs this week, head coach Dennis Allen says Thomas isn’t ready to return yet, but hopes he’ll be ready by late July. Per NFL.com:
“If I had a crystal ball and could tell you all these things, I’d probably be making a lot more money and doing something different. But yeah, our hope is that he’s gonna be ready to for training camp. So that’s what we’re pushing for.”
This offseason, the Saints reinforced the receiver position through both free agency and the draft. General manager Mickey Loomis turned what was a glaring weakness into a potential strength, using a first-round pick on Ohio State star Chris Olave before signing former LSU Tiger Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million.
If Thomas can get back on the field and become the talent he once was, New Orleans has a chance to be potent as quarterback Jameis Winston works his way back from a torn ACL suffered in October.
However, if Thomas can’t get back on the field or is severely hindered by a balky ankle, the Saints will be relying on a rental in Landry and a rookie receiver trying to find his way in the league, all while facing top corners on a weekly basis.
In what promises to be an intriguing year for the Saints, Thomas’ health looms as perhaps the biggest x-factor determining whether they surge into a playoff spot, or they are playing meaningless football by Thanksgiving weekend.