Extending Michael Thomas was the right decision at the time

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

Hindsight is always 20/20, and it's easy for fans to pile criticism on New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas after yet another disappointing season.

What's not so easy, however, is to empathize. No matter what one may think of Thomas as a player in 2022, there should be no argument regarding his contract extension back in 2019.

Drafted by the Saints in 2016, Thomas had developed into one of the league's most elite deep threats within three years. He posted 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons from 2016 to 2018, and it made crystal-clear sense for NOLA to keep its most productive wideout, adding an undeniable talent to its strong offensive core.

Thomas rewarded the Saints for their faith in him immediately afterward, posting a record-breaking season in 2019 with 149 catches for 1,725 yards and averaging a league-high 107.8 yards per game.

No one could have predicted what would happen next.

After that glorious 2019 campaign, Thomas has vastly underperformed due to an unfortunate slew of injuries.

An ankle issue and miscommunication problems saw Thomas sit out for most of 2020 and the entire 2021 season. Fans understandably hoped for Thomas to bounce back this year, yet a new injury has caused him to be placed on IR. Reports say he will likely miss the rest of the season.

Saints would have been idiotic not to extend Michael Thomas in 2019

Looking back, fans can be disappointed in Thomas' inability to stay healthy, but they can't argue with the Saints' decision to sign him to a five-year, $96.25 million contract in 2019. He was producing monster numbers in his prime, and NOLA wasn't about to let a dynamic playmaker like Thomas go.

For his part, Thomas worked hard to get back into shape this past offseason, reaffirming his loyalty to the Saints franchise and posting inspirational messages on social media. His rehab went as well as planned (except for that ghosting incident); his initial return went well, too (three touchdowns in the first two games).

The news of Thomas' season-ending toe injury does feel a bit sudden considering that the team had hyped up Thomas' recovery and praised his progress for the last several weeks. Yet it's often not in the best interest of the team to disclose every detail about player injuries, and in the end, Thomas' relationship with the Saints is what matters most.

This is the story of a player who reached the apex of his career and was once considered one of the best at his position, but he ultimately fell off the pedestal due to unforeseeable injuries.

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We, for one, are still crossing our fingers hoping that Thomas' story ends with a happy ending.