Michael Thomas was/is due to become a free agent next week

The news that the Saints will be releasing receiver Michael Thomas next week isn't news, in the usual sense.

This was the inevitable end result last year, when he negotiated a new contract that essentially covered one year, the 2023 season.

As of last year, Thomas and the Saints agreed to an effective one-year deal with extra voidable years for cap purposes. The complex and very unique nature of the deal, per a source with knowledge of the terms, prevents the Saints from cutting him before the first day of the 2024 league year — and also requires that they release him on March 13.

The bottom line is that the agreement from last year also pointed to that outcome. Thomas gets released on the first day of the league year, and then can sign with any other team. He will not be released before March 13, and he was always going to be released that day, as a technicality not an indictment of his skill or ability.

Thomas, a second-round pick in 2016, is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All Pro. He signed a massive contract after catching 149 passes for 1,725 yards in 2019. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season, which derailed a career that seemed to be on a fast track to Canton.

He turned 31 earlier this week. Next week, he'll be a free agent for the first time. Which was the plan for more than a year.