Michael Thomas contract restructure could signal end of Saints run

The New Orleans Saints and Michael Thomas agreeing to a restructured deal seems to be a signal of what’s to come.

Regardless of when Michael Thomas’s time with the New Orleans Saints comes to an end, it’s sure to be marked with the idea of what could have been.

What could have been if the Saints had a few controversial calls go their way? What could have been if Thomas wasn’t unfortunately subject to so many injuries throughout his time in New Orleans? What could have been if Drew Brees was just a little bit younger and still with the team?

A contract restructure suggests that Thomas and the Saints will likely be no more.

Michael Thomas’s contract with Saints restructured, signaling we’ll learn his future soon

Field Yates of ESPN reported on Saturday morning that the Saints and Thomas have agreed to a restructured contract. The agreement happened on Friday.

Per Yates:

“Thomas, who is under contract through the 2024 season, had his base salary in 2023 reduced from $15.5M to $1.165M while adding a $31.755M roster bonus for the 2024 league year that becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2023 league year (March 17, 2023). Thomas also received a signing bonus of $902,941 this week, the equivalent to one extra game check for his original 2022 base salary of $15.35M when the deal was signed (the Saints have restructured the deal on multiple occasions).”

Yates went on to speculate that if Thomas is to be released and become a free agent, it would happen very early in the 2023 season before his contract becomes fully guaranteed.

It’s hard to project exactly what the restructure means for Thomas’s future, as the Saints are frequently tight on cap space and restructuring deals in this fashion is nothing new for them. It’s hard to ignore the savings they would have by releasing Thomas, though. Couple that with the fact that New Orleans had a down year — they enter the final week of the season 7-9 and missed the postseason for the second straight year — and it does make sense to move on from pieces leftover from the previous era.

Local beat writer Nick Underhill pointed out in his column that it was the same deal Brees and Malcolm Jenkins agreed to before retiring (subscription required). He speculated it likely means Thomas will be cut.

Essentially, it puts nearly a million dollars in Thomas’s pocket on his way out as a parting gift.

Michael Thomas’s time with Saints has felt close to expiration in the past

This isn’t the first time the future between New Orleans and Michael Thomas has felt like it was coming up on a dead end.

At points during 2021 even, it felt as if Thomas was not going to play for the Saints again. He missed that entire season and there were reports that there was a disconnect between the organization and Thomas over injury treatment.

Over the last three seasons, Thomas has started just eight games after leading the league in receptions in 2018 and 2019, and yards in 2019 as well. He has had three nine-touchdown seasons in his career.

If he enters free agency, it’s unclear exactly what kind of attention he will get. The last time we saw Thomas put up a Pro Bowl season was three years ago, and injuries have defined his career since.

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