While no announcement has been made, it appears that New Orleans Saints icon Drew Brees will retire this offseason. Much has been made of what may be the end of Brees' career, but it may actually be wide receiver Michael Thomas who is the more interesting player to monitor.
Following a season-ending playoff loss to the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said Monday that while "nothing is imminent," he "wouldn't rule anything out" in regards to Thomas this offseason.
Tuesday, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio speculated on the idea of the Saints trading Thomas to the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. We should be clear, this was not a report from Florio, but his line of thinking makes quite a bit of sense. The new head coach in Jacksonville is Urban Meyer, who coached Thomas at Ohio State from 2012-2016. The Jaguars have more than $70 million in cap space to work with this offseason, and have multiple picks in the first, second and fourth rounds this offseason, so it's not hard to imagine them being able to facilitate a trade.
Thomas had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history in 2019, hauling in a league-record 149 passes, while racking up 1,725 yards, en route to winning the Offensive Player of the Year.
2020 couldn't have been more different, though.
Thomas was still very productive in parts of seven regular season games this year, hauling in 40 passes for 438 yards. However, an ankle injury marred Thomas' fifth NFL season, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that he'll have multiple offseason surgeries to repair "the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his high ankle."
Perhaps more noteworthy is Thomas, who will turn 28 in March, seemed to have some level of cooling in his relationship with the organization this season. The three-time Pro Bowler was disciplined by the team for getting into a physical altercation with a teammate in October. Rapoport called 2020 a "a tough year for all parties."
In theory, as the Saints hand the quarterback position over to Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston or someone else, they'd like to have a wide receiver who is on a Hall of Fame-caliber path there to ease the transition. Even with an injury-riddled 2020 season, Thomas has 5,950 receiving yards through his first five seasons - he's the perfect fit for Sean Payton's offense. But from a production standpoint, Antonio Brown was a perfect fit in Pittsburgh, as was Terrell Owens in multiple stops. Still, both were ultimately moved, and we'd eventually learn why (and even those two had entirely different dynamics present).
The Saints are already in salary cap hell, a problem that would be made worse by trading Thomas before June 1, when his contract would leave the Saints with $20 million in dead cap money next season. However, as they turn the page on the offense, the last thing they want is for any individual to become a distraction, so there may have to be some fence mending this offseason with Thomas to avoid a split.
If not, Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars would probably be among the teams that would like to be the beneficiaries of a breakup between Thomas and the Saints.