The New Orleans Saints should not trade wide receiver Michael Thomas.
Put this nonsense to rest already.
It’s all over articles of beat writers with nothing else to cover and NFL fans on Twitter love speculating their team will receive Michael Thomas in some sort of salary cap dump. Even Bleacher Report recently listed trading away Michael Thomas as the one trade the Saints need to make this offseason:
Yet again, the New Orleans Saints have a lot of work to do just to get under the cap. In 2020, they cleared over $110 million to get under the limit. Even with the cap rising, they are set to be $76.2 million over going into this offseason.
The team has declared it wants Thomas back in 2022 and isn’t expecting to trade him. However, without a clear answer at quarterback and Sean Payton gone, now is the time to make the hard choices and get the team in a better position to build long-term.
That makes shipping off Michael Thomas a no-brainer. Thomas’s talent isn’t in question. In 2019, he was dominant in leading the league with 149 catches and 1,725 yards. However, he has only played seven games since then.
The star receiver missed all of 2021 with an ankle injury and there has reportedly been some tension between him and the franchise.
Trading Thomas away would allow the Saints to clear $15.8 million if the deal happens after June 1. That’s a significant number for a franchise that is going to have to get creative to clear cap space again.
Bleacher Report went so far as to say the Jacksonville Jaguars should be the team trying to trade for the star receiver.
Let’s address this piece by piece.
Yes, the New Orleans Saints are currently $100+ million over the 2022 salary cap. But Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football has already done a great job of explaining how the Saints can get under the 2022 cap without having to cut a single player. In short, the Saints can move around players’ 2022 cap hit by converting their base salaries into signing bonuses and spreading out the cap hit into future years. Check out this awesome graphic to visualize the point:
Here's a way to visualize how much effective cap space teams have currently, and how much they can end up with if they complete max restructures on their veteran contracts. This is a better way to evaluate how much money teams have for the offseason than just current cap space pic.twitter.com/lOtEX4sS8g— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) February 17, 2022
So now that we know the Saints don’t have to trade Thomas, let’s consider if they likely want to.
There were reports last season that a rift formed between Thomas and the team due to alleged miscommunications regarding Thomas’s delay in undergoing ankle surgery. But to be more specific, the alleged “rift” wasn’t just between Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints, it was reportedly a personal issue between Michael Thomas and Sean Payton. Payton and Thomas reportedly smoothed things over later in the season, but for better or worse, Sean Payton is no longer the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Any issues Michael Thomas may have had with his head coach are likely irrelevant considering that head coach is no longer with the team.
That means the Saints don’t need to trade Thomas, they likely don’t want to, but let’s now consider if they should.
As any good businessperson would tell you: It is never wise to sell an asset at its historically lowest value unless you believe its value will only continue to decrease. If the New Orleans Saints were to trade Michael Thomas, they would be doing just that. As Bleacher Report recognized, the Thomas hasn’t played a full season since 2019, and missed all of last season due to the aforementioned ankle injury. Even if the Saints wanted to trade away Michael Thomas, they shouldn’t do so before the season. They would need to let Michael Thomas show he’s fully recovered from his multiple surgeries and able to be a productive NFL wide receiver again. In Thomas’s last full season, he was the Offensive Player of the Year. If the Saints were to ever envision trading away Michael Thomas, they would need to first let him show he’s capable of that level of production again.
Here’s the thing, though: Once you know you have a player that is able to perform an elite level at a position that was a glaring black hole last season, why in the world would you want to trade him anyway?
BREAKING: NFL team does *not* actually want to trade one of their best players currently on a long-term contract when that player is at his lowest trade value in his NFL career.— Christopher Dunnells (@ChrisDunnells) February 13, 2022
This isn’t to say the Saints never trade Michael Thomas. This is still a business at the end of the day, and stranger things have happened. But the Saints shouldn’t want to, and they definitely don’t need to, trade away a player who is a huge part of their few reasons for optimism for the 2022 season.
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