The New Orleans Saints have dealt with a brutal string of injuries as of late. During Sunday’s stunning victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jameis Winston left with an injury and is out for the year after suffering ACL and MCL damage.
Taysom Hill is also working his way back onto the field and is getting closer to game action. The Saints were holding out hope that star wide receiver Michael Thomas could return to the field and come off the PUP list sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, those dreams were shattered after Thomas announced that he would miss the remainder of the season, casting an even bigger shadow of the Superdome in New Orleans.
Michael Thomas won’t play during the 2021 season
It has been nearly 15 months since Thomas sustained the initial ankle injury (Week 1 of the 2020 season). He returned and suited up for seven games last season, with his final appearance coming in the NFC playoffs against the Bucs.
Thomas landed on injured reserve during the offseason and was expected to miss a good chunk of time, although the hope was that he could return during the 2021 season.
As the weeks came and went, mysteries and questions swirled about Thomas’ availability and his hopeful return to the field. All that is put to rest for now with Thomas’ announcement, which is just another massive blow to this Saints team.
This is just another blow for the Saints, who are fresh off a thrilling victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Any hope of Thomas returning is over, and now Sean Payton and whoever is throwing passes in New Orleans will have to utilize other options.
The Saints have a huge decision on their hands
Just a few years back, the Saints agreed to terms with Thomas on a massive five-year, $100 million contract. Suddenly, not even three years into the deal, the Saints have a million questions to answer regarding Thomas’ future with the team.
The bad news is that Thomas has an injury guarantee for 2022 — he is owed over $15 million, according to Spotrac. The good news?
Thomas has an opt-out after the 2021 season. However, Thomas might not decide to opt out, especially considering he won’t find that type of money on the open market given his recent injury history.
Then again, do the Saints want to pay Thomas that money? The former Ohio State star has suited up in just seven games since 2020 and won’t be ready until the 2022 season — and even that is up in the air.
With the injury guarantee, the Saints would owe him all of that money, and with their cap situation as strapped as it is, perhaps Thomas’s time in New Orleans is over.
The road ahead just keeps getting rough for New Orleans
The Saints are somehow 5-2 and just behind the Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South. But after the injury to Jameis Winston, the next man up will be one of Hill and Trevor Siemian. Add in the fact that a Thomas return is officially shut down, and the Saints will look for other playmakers to hold down the fort.
Next is a matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, followed by games versus the Tennessee Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints still have another game against the Bucs and contests against the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills on the schedule.
The vibe in New Orleans was exciting after their thrilling victory against Tampa Bay, but no more than a week later, things are looking more and more cloudy.
On the other hand, this defense is playing at a high level, and they still have one of the best head coaches in the NFL. But as far as Thomas is concerned, there is a strong possibility that his time in a Saints uniform has officially reached an unfortunate end.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference