Last year, there was evidence of very real friction between the Saints and superstar catcher Michael Thomas. The fact that Thomas would miss the start of the season with ankle surgery dating back to the injury he suffered in the first week of the 2020 season could make matters worse.
It certainly won’t make things better.
On the surface, an obvious question arises: why would Thomas wait until June for surgery with a four month recovery / rehabilitation period? A clear answer hasn’t emerged, but NewOrleansFootball.com’s Nick Underhill has gathered some facts that could make the Saints less than happy with the way Thomas handled the situation.
Per Underhill, Thomas saw a specialist after the end of the 2020 season. The specialist believed Thomas could eventually rehabilitate the injury and avoid surgery. Thomas, according to the report, was supposed to spend about a month trying to heal the ankle, then return to the specialist to see if surgery would be needed. Underhill reports that the return visit never happened.
Underhill adds that the events of the next few months are unclear. When Thomas returned to the Saints in June for off-season training (it’s unclear why he wasn’t there earlier), the Saints realized his ankle “was still in bad shape.” (Coach Sean Payton said in June of Thomas’ ankle injury: “So far, so good.”) The team then asked Thomas for surgery. And now it takes six to eight weeks after the surgery to heal the ligament, and six to eight weeks afterwards to get the repaired ankle back to great football shape.
If Underhill’s report is correct (and I have no doubts, I’m just qualifying what I’m about to say next), there’s a good chance the Saints are mad at him for delaying the process. If he had returned to the specialist and had surgery by March, he might be ready to leave as soon as training camp started. Indeed, the surgery was deemed “likely” following the team’s playoff loss to Tampa Bay in January.
As the Saints are not satisfied with Thomas, this emotion is not new. Last October, Jeff Duncan of TheAthletic.com wrote at length about the team’s concerns with Thomas. Then there’s the fact that, as PFT reported in late October, Thomas’ camp was trying to convince another team to make a commercial offer to the Saints for Thomas. No offer was ever made.
This part shows that any grudge is (or at least at the time was) mutual. Now, with the team potentially boiling over Thomas shuffling about his ankle and Thomas possibly (possibly emphasizing) taking his time as a not-so-subtle middle finger at the team, where does it go to leave this place?
A trade before the 2021 deadline would not change their $ 8.9 million bonus prorata for the current year, and that would result in a cap charge of $ 22.7 million for the team in 2022. Although Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has shown he knows how to work the magic pay-cap, the team would surely prefer to avoid that kind of dead money next year. (That said, they would offset the cap reached by avoiding $ 15.6 million in compensation for Thomas in 2022.)
Either way, the tea leaves suggest that the milk most likely remains spoiled between the player and the team. If the Saints can get off to a good start without him this year, the Saints might decide now is the time to listen to the offerings – if, of course, they get any.