One of the New Orleans Saints thinnest positions got even thinner recently. Michael Thomas had ankle surgery in June and will likely miss the beginning of the NFL regular season. The exact timing of Thomas’ recovery is currently unknown. Predictions have varied from four weeks into the year to 12. However long it is, the Saints must do something to help the offense begin the season. These are some ways that the Saints can replace the Michael Thomas production from the past few seasons.
Michael Thomas Production Hole for the Saints
First things first, there is no way replacing a receiver like Michael Thomas at this point in the off-season. Thomas has been the anchor for the Saints receiving corp the past couple of years. If the Saints thought this injury would linger into the 2021 season, surely they would have drafted or signed a receiver before now. This late into the off-season, the Saints need to scramble and find production somewhere. There are many ways to fill this void. Let’s examine some of them.
A pass-catcher does not necessarily mean a wide receiver. Several NFL teams run their primary passing attack through tight ends and the Saints could join that bandwagon. Zach Ertz is the first tight end that comes to mind. Ertz likely wants out of Philadelphia and a new team. If the Eagles and Ertz are truly at a crossroads, then the Saints could be a good suitor for Ertz in 2021.
Some wide receiver trades to consider could come from teams with deep rosters or rebuilding teams. The Arizona Cardinals recently signed A.J. Green to their team and drafted Rondale Moore. This could leave receivers like Christian Kirk or Andy Isabella expendable. Another team with assets to trade could be the recently rebuilt Jacksonville Jaguars. DJ Chark is entering the last year of his contract with the Jaguars. If Chark is going to be a casualty of rebuilding, Jacksonville could be looking to get something back for him before his contract expires.
Potential Free-Agents Signings
The Saints already made one move into the free agency pool. Lacrosse star Chris Hogan has signed with the Saints after a quick tryout. The Saints could keep looking at free agents before moving onto potential trades. Josh Gordon has recently requested reinstatement to the NFL, again. Dez Bryant and Golden Tate are veterans who are waiting on a team to call. That team could very well be the Saints, especially for Bryant who almost played some games with the Saints in previous seasons. A combination of any of these receivers could fill the gap left by Thomas until his return.
Current Role-Players Who Can Make a Difference
The current role-player wide receivers will have more opportunities than ever before. Last year when Michael Thomas missed time, the Saints had veteran Emmanuel Sanders to lead the way. Sanders has now departed for the Buffalo Bills and the Saints did not sign anyone to replace him. There are a couple of receivers already on the team who will be tasked with replacing both Thomas and Sanders’ production from last year. Sean Payton’s office is notoriously difficult to learn. Many players take a season or two before contributing, especially on offense.
Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith have to prove it this year. Smith more than ever since this is the last year of his rookie contract. Callaway took several steps forward with limited opportunity and was already expected to challenge for the number two job before Thomas’ injury. Tight end Adam Trautman also has the ability and break-out opportunity this year. Sean Payton’s offense is not usually learned in one off-season, especially in Covid time. Trautman is going into his second year with the Saints and could be poised for a breakout year when the Saints need it the most.
Various Paths to Michael Thomas Production for Saints
It could be a tight end. It could be a receiver. The only sure thing is that the Saints have to find a way to replicate Michael Thomas on the field. Sean Payton is one of the best offensive coaches in the league. If any coach can fill this gap, it is Payton. The Saints could make one or more moves to help an already shaken offense. The quarterback battle will catch the eyes of most around the team. In order to compete this year though, the Saints will need to find some way to replace the Michael Thomas production they are accustomed to.
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