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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2019: Reaching the pinnacle

Ahead of the 2019 season, the Saints rewarded Thomas with a handsome five-year contract with $61 million in guarantees, making him the highest-paid wide receiver in league history. For one season — and one season only — he justified this exorbitant price tag.

Thomas' 2019 season is the stuff of legends: he posted nine games with 10+ receptions, 10 games of over 100 yards, and he found the end zone in eight games for nine scores. He was named the Offensive Player of the Year, earned his second All-Pro nod, and made his third Pro Bowl. He had climbed to his peak of No. 5 on the 2020 NFL Top 100 list, and Thomas was on top of the world.

He logged 123 yards on 10 catches in the season opener against the Houston Texans and blew the doors off of the Bucs' secondary in Week 5 with 11 catches for a monstrous 182 yards and two touchdowns. This was the start of a string of 11 games where Thomas only failed to reach 100 yards twice (Weeks 6 and 13). He notched five games of over 130 yards, and he went for over 150 yards in two of them (Bucs in Week 5, Falcons in Week 10).

It all came to a head in Week 16 against the Tennessee Titans — Thomas' last big game of the season. With his 12 receptions, he officially moved his season total to 145 and broke Marvin Harrison's single-season receptions record (143). He parlayed those record-breaking catches into 136 yards and a touchdown in the 38-28 win. Thomas finished the regular season atop the league in both catches with 149 — the NFL Record — and yards with 1,725. He also broke Saints single-season receiving record that he had just raised the bar on the year prior.

This was the last full season Thomas played for the Saints, and he never posted more than 600 yards in a season again while wearing black and gold.