Keeping Michael Thomas could cost the Saints more than $60 million in 2024

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Woof. If there were any doubts about the future for Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints, this should put them to rest. NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill reports that there are additional wrinkles to the reworked contract Thomas and the Saints agreed to last week — if Thomas is active for at least four games with New Orleans in 2023, it will trigger a $30 million bonus for 2024. That’s in addition to the $31 million roster bonus the Saints moved from the 2023 salary cap calendar over to 2024, which becomes fully guaranteed in March, on the eve of free agency.

So that makes it even more likely that Thomas will be released before that $31 million comes into effect. The Saints moved that money around at the end of the 2022 season to beat an NFL deadline for restructuring contracts with a post-June 1 cut designation in mind, which lowered the salary cap hit owed for Thomas until a point where the Saints can shed as much of it as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean Thomas is out in New Orleans (it’s possible he and the Saints circle back and restructure it yet again), but that is the likeliest outcome.

And there’s no way Thomas will be on the team next year if he’s going to singlehandedly account for $60 million or more in the season that follows. Again, the Saints could sneak in another contract tweak at the last minute to keep him on the squad for 2023, but don’t bet on it. All of these moves indicate that they’re preparing for a split this offseason, giving Thomas new opportunities elsewhere and opening up resources for the Saints to invest in other players.

It’s a shame things got to this point, but injuries and frustrating surgeries have derailed the career of someone who was on track to be one of the greatest to ever do it in black and gold. Hopefully Thomas can heal up, return to form, and find more success in the NFL — just, not at the Saints’ expense. Stay tuned for developments on this front as the offseason continues.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire