An unhappy wide receiver with ties to their coaching staff may need a change of scenery, but should the Lions be interested?
Among many needs now and moving forward, wide receiver is toward the top of the list for the Detroit Lions. So even as mostly a sell candidate heading into the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline, it’s easy to explain why they’d be in the market to add a wide receiver.
Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report took a run at finding homes for NFL players who need a change of scenery before the trade deadline. On the list is New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has yet to play this season after a late ankle surgery that caused angst between he and the organization. This past week, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thomas is still “a couple weeks away” from returning.
The Saints would have to activate Thomas in order to trade him before the deadline, if they’re even entertaining offers. So what team could provide an ideal change of scenery for Thomas? I’ll let Sobleski’s conclusion stand on its own, but you’ve probably already guessed.
Best New Fit: Detroit Lions
As Sobleski pointed out, Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn were Saints’ assistants from 2016-2020. Whether those ties would matter is a question. Thomas does not have a no-trade clause.
The bigger issue is Thomas’ contract and the cap implications for the Saints. The Saints would take on a total of $31.6 million in dead money by trading him, $8.9 million this year and $22.7 million next year, The Saints would save $2 million from his 2022 cap figure, and an acquiring team would take on cap hits of $15.8 million (2022), $16.45 million (2023) and $19.7 million (2024) under the parameters of his current deal without an extension.
The Lions would be making a trade for any wide receiver with an eye past this season. Despite his last two seasons being wrecked by an ankle injury, there’s no denying Thomas’ talent. He set the single-season NFL record with 149 receptions in 2019, and he led the league in catches in 2018 (125). He will turn 29 next March 3, so he should have plenty of good years left in him.
Any team that might want to trade for Thomas has to weigh the talent vs. trouble equation at this point, as the Saints do too. The Lions could embrace the measure of risk, and make a bold move to secure a No.1 wide receiver for whoever their quarterback will be.
Healthy enough to play or not, it’s incredibly unlikely Thomas is traded anywhere before Nov. 2. But this side of a reunion with his college coach in Jacksonville, Detroit makes some sense as a landing spot he’d like.