How Michael Thomas went from Saints star to getting unceremoniously released

Michael Thomas' release signifies the end of an era for the New Orleans Saints. An era where Thomas went from setting NFL records to constant injuries.

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages
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2017-18: The rise of Can't Guard Mike

Ahead of the 2017 season, the Saints became the first of four teams to trade Cooks away and gave Thomas the promotion to WR1. He finished the 2017 season with 104 catches for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. Only Jarvis Landry (112) and Larry Fitzgerald (109) finished the season with more, and his yardage landed him at sixth in the league. In the first playoff game of his career, he demolished the Carolina Panthers's secondary for eight catches and 131 yards en route to a 31-26 win in the Wild Card Round.

Although the 2017 NFC Divisional Round is known for something far more painful, Thomas was responsible for the Saints' first two touchdowns. He started to get some attention on the national level this year: he was voted to his first Pro Bowl and debuted at No. 81 on the 2018 NFL Top 100.

He started the 2018 season with a bang, posting a Saints single-game record 16 receptions in the season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he converted to 180 yards and a touchdown. Two weeks later against the Falcons, Thomas caught all 10 balls thrown his way for 129 yards, his second 100-plus yard game of the season. A 12-catch, 89-yard, and two-touchdown performance against the Cleveland Browns was sandwiched in between.

He stayed relatively quiet until the Week 9 showdown against the then-undefeated Los Angeles Rams. Thomas decided that the single-game reception record wasn't enough, so he went and hauled in 12 passes for a Saints single-game record 211 yards and a game-sealing 72-yard touchdown where he scorched Marcus Peters into a pile of ash and recreated Joe Horn's iconic cell phone celebration.

The next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, he was held in check in the yardage department but found the endzone twice for the second time of the season. He logged one more big game in the regular season — 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers — before the playoffs hit again. He finished the year leading the NFL in receptions (and was sixth in yards) while breaking Horn's Saints single-season receiving yards record for the first time with 1,405.

He only made a difference in the first playoff game, but it was a dynamite appearance. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 NFC Divisional round, Thomas reeled in 12 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown in the 20-14 win. He didn't do much in the 2018 NFC Championship, but the Saints still got robbed there and should have made the Super Bowl. Despite the team disappointments, Thomas' accolades were growing: he was named to his second straight Pro Bowl, earned his first All-Pro nod, and vaulted up to No. 13 in the 2019 NFL Top 100, just ahead of Alvin Kamara and just behind JJ Watt.