The New Orleans Saints have found themselves stuck in a bit of a strange spot this offseason, as they are continuing to work on figuring out life without quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton. They have taken a step towards that goal by signing Derek Carr to be their new quarterback in free agency, but there are still quite a few holes on this roster.
Despite a fairly unencouraging 2022 campaign, the Saints may not be as far away from competing as it seems, thanks to the fact that they play in the desolate NFC South. New Orleans finished with a 7-10 record last season, but that was only one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the division. As of right now, there isn’t a clear cut frontrunner in their division right now, which could help the Saints out.
Still, their roster needs a lot of fine tuning, and most of that work will be done during the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. If the Saints want to pick up more draft capital, or a player who could fill an area of weakness, they could trade away a player from a position of strength. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the perfect trade New Orleans should make this offseason, and see why that’s the case.
Perfect trade that Saints must complete: Getting rid of Michael Thomas
Even though it may not seem like it based on how the 2022 season went, the Saints are well-stocked at wide receiver for the most part, Chris Olave appears to be a star in the making after a strong rookie campaign, and Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas were solid when they were able to play last season. The problem was that they combined to play just 12 games last year.
In particular, it feels like Thomas’ inability to stay on the field is becoming increasingly concerning. Thomas has an incredibly high ceiling, but he’s come nowhere close to reaching that ceiling since his historic 2019 campaign. Over three seasons since 2019, Thomas’ total numbers (56 REC, 609 YDS, 3 TD) are very poor.
The Saints are stuck playing a waiting game with Thomas that they cannot really afford to play anymore. They need Thomas to produce, or they need to move him and get something that could help them win in the near future. And at this point, trading Thomas away may be the team’s best course of action.
Thomas hasn’t been fully healthy since the 2019 season, when he posted one of the most proficient receiving seasons in NFL history (149 REC, 1725 YDS, 9 TD). That has led many fans and teams to wonder what Thomas is actually capable of when he’s fully healthy and is playing in a competent offense.
The trade value for Thomas isn’t going to be as high as it once was obviously, but considering his ceiling as one of the most impactful receivers in the league, there will likely be a team willing to make a move for him. At his peak, Thomas was the best receiver in the NFL, but whether or not he can reach that peak again remains to be seen.
Further helping Thomas’ trade value would be the fact that the Saints restructured his deal earlier this offseason as they raced to get under the salary cap before the new league year. Thomas is under team control through the 2024 season, and his base salary is only barely over $1 million in both seasons, so teams won’t be put off by the amount of money that is owed to him.
For the Saints, though, trading Thomas before June 1st doesn’t really help them out from a salary perspective, as they will assume a ton of dead cap thanks to their restructure. They could designate a trade as a post June 1st move and save a little over $1 million in cap space, but given the situation New Orleans finds themselves in, anything will help them at this point.
New Orleans could opt to hold onto Thomas and hope he can stay healthy for the 2023 season, and as of right now, that seems to be their intention. But they have a budding star in Olave and a consistent slot option in Landry if he can stay healthy. There are other spots on the roster that have far bigger needs than at wide receiver right now.
The Saints need help at a lot of spots right now, which is why holding out hope for a miraculous return to form from Thomas seems like wishful thinking. New Orleans could still move him, save some cap space, and pick up a draft asset or player in an attempt to shore up other needs on their roster. It may not be as likely as it once was, but this could be a shrewd little move from New Orleans to help themselves out a bit.
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