It feels like it’s just a matter of when not if the Saints part ways with wide receiver Michael Thomas. The two sides are clearly not seeing eye to eye on things, and a trade seems likely within the next 12 months. These five teams might be in the mix for the single-season record holder for receptions (149 in 2019). Remember, Thomas is currently hurt and might not be ready to play until months into the season, which further complicates a complex situation. [The cap situations are not ideal for three of these teams, but clubs can typically make something work and get below the cap if they really want a player.]
The receiving group for the Ravens has been boosted after the signing of Sammy Watkins during free agency and the addition of Rashod Bateman in the first round of this year’s draft; also, James Proche sounds like he’s stepping up in his second training camp. And Lamar Jackson’s upcoming contract extension won’t make things easy on a potential move like this. But the Ravens took a shot on Marcus Peters, and they profile as a team that would bring in a guy like Thomas if they think it’ll give their football team a big boost. Unless Marquise Brown and/or Bateman is out for an extended period of time, the Ravens making a move for Thomas might be something to keep an eye on for 2022 rather than 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs
Similarly, it’s difficult to see the Chiefs going after Thomas this year, even if he gets healthy by the trade deadline. However, if Kansas City isn’t happy with the weapons around Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce this season—to note, Mecole Hardman is said to be having a very good summer and could take the next step—they’ve shown they’ll do whatever it takes to surround Patrick Mahomes with as much help as possible. Kansas City was in on JuJu Smith-Schuster during free agency, and they might be in on Thomas soon.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are also among the most aggressive teams in the league, and they continue to find ways to acquire players they want while staying below the cap. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are locked up long-term, and the team was high on Van Jefferson as a rookie and also added Tutu Atwell in the second round this year, but Sean McVay and company might want as much firepower as possible—even if it becomes overkill—while trying to win a title with Matthew Stafford. Especially looking ahead to 2022, when the salary cap should increase a good deal, the Rams are a team to watch if they come up short this season and want to make another splash move next offseason.
These next two teams are probably the most likely to go after Thomas this season, if anyone does. The Eagles recently cleared cap space (many believe it to be for Deshaun Watson), and Howie Roseman is one of the most aggressive decision-makers in the league. The receiving corps has been a point of weakness for the Eagles, and Roseman, who was able to draft Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, might want to continue trying to make people forget about his recent draft blunders at the position by acquiring the All-Pro receiver.
The team most likely to make a trade for Thomas has to be the Jaguars. Urban Meyer coached Thomas at Ohio State and is a huge fan, and he probably feels he can keep the unpredictable receiver in check. It’s easy to envision a deal where the Saints are sent D.J. Chark and maybe a draft pick in exchange for Thomas. If I was New Orleans, I would probably call up Meyer and see if you could pull off a highway robbery considering his affinity for his former player.