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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2022-23: Recurring injuries and the downfall

He returned, seemingly healthy, for the 2022 season and was productive (but not great) immediately. He caught five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 against the Falcons, and that was the last multi-touchdown game from him.

In Week 2 against the Bucs, he snagged six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Week 3 saw the Saints take to Charlotte to take on the Panthers. The Saints lost the game 22-14, and Thomas exited the game early with a foot injury after catching five passes for 49 yards. He missed four games and lived in injury limbo before a move to the IR ended his 2022 season early. He finished 2022 with 16 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns.

Thomas cited stress reactions to both his ankle and toe procedures as the reason for his extended absence, and there was hope he could stay healthy through a full season. However, when Thomas finally returned for an extended stretch in the 2023 season, he was a shell of the receiver he once was. He played in 10 games, which was the most since playing all 16 games in 2019. He was no longer the WR1; that was Olave's job now.

Thomas' sure hands took a serious step back: he only caught 39 of the 64 passes thrown his way (60.9%), a far cry from the 80.5% of passes he caught in 2019. His pay also reflected this regression: his contract was restructured and his per-year salary tanked from over $15 million to just over $1 million. He only found the end zone once in his final season in New Orleans and didn't eclipse 100 receiving yards in any games from his last two seasons with the Saints.