Saints wideout Michael Thomas' name continues to get thrown around NFL trade circles as the NFL nears the trade deadline. Thomas hasn't played for the Saints this season as he recuperates from a surgery he had in the summer.
A real storm erupted back then as the tension between Saints head coach Sean Payton and Thomas hit the news in New Orleans. Thomas missed a lot of time in the 2020 season, and his absence certainly hurt the Saints down the stretch.
There is no word on Thomas' status, and he is forever being linked with a move away from the Big Easy. Therefore it is worth considering if the Saints might trade Thomas before the deadline.
Could the Saints trade Thomas, and who might sign him?
In short? Probably not. The Saints extended Thomas to an enormous contract a few years ago. If they traded Thomas, they'd need to eat $32 million in dead cap money. That is an almost untenable position for a team, especially as the Saints are still fighting salary cap problems.
Thomas is a bonafide number one wide receiver. However, his injury history will concern teams, as will his attitude. Subsequently, the Saints would expect a considerable offer in return.
Teams may be reticent to offer a haul of picks to acquire a receiver that they may not be able to rely on. Thomas comes with baggage, and playoff contenders may not deem that enough when weighing up a possible move.
The Saints should only trade Thomas if they feel the relationship between him and the head coach is totally broken. But Sean Payton has never minded controversial players or players who can cause problems.
Payton champions debate, discussion and a little volatility. Thomas generates all of that and more in the locker room. Therefore it is tough to see the relationship breaking down.
The only other scenario that might tempt the Saints to shift Thomas is if they fall out of playoff contention. That might then interest several teams looking for a player to push them over the edge.
The Los Angeles Chargers could be the team that makes the phone call. Thomas is a gritty, rugged possession receiver, and he can become a safety blanket underneath for Justin Herbert. If the Chargers pair Thomas alongside Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, they could have the best wideout room in the NFL.
The other team that may be interested is the San Francisco 49ers. Brandon Aiyuk seems to be in Kyle Shanahan's bad books, and Thomas is the perfect wideout for that offensive system.
Michael Thomas is in a difficult spot. He needs a bounce-back year when he does return to the game. If he plays poorly, the NFL world might quickly move on from the player they can't guard.