With Michael Thomas out into the regular season, the New Orleans Saints should be looking at these five candidates to help fill the void.
After Drew Brees’ retirement, the New Orleans Saints will have a new starting quarterback this season. Whether it’s Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill, or some combination of the two, they will start the season without wide receiver Michael Thomas.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Thomas underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his ankle in June, with a recommended four-month recovery period. So that means an October return. But Larry Holder of The Athletic, using the site’s injury algorithm, was pessimistic about when the NFL’s single-season record holder for receptions (149 in 2019) will be fully recovered.
Thomas is clearly the No. 1 wide receiver for New Orleans, as evidenced by the career production of those left behind him on the depth chart.
Thomas was bothered by an ankle injury last season, so the Saints are sure to be cautious with his recovery from surgery and return to action. It’s odd he waited until June to have surgery, but benefit of the doubt says there was a good reason for it.
In any case, the Saints are in the market for a wide receiver and these five guys should be on their radar to help replace Thomas’ production for as long as he’s out.
5 wide receiver targets for Saints to replace Michael Thomas
5. Kenny Stills, Free Agent
Stills spent most of the last two seasons with the Houston Texans, before being released during last season and signing with the Buffalo Bills. His only game on the 53-man roster for Buffalo was the AFC Championship.
Stills has some history with the Saints, having spent his first two seasons with them after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. In 2014, he set career-highs for catches (63) and yards (931). Over a three-season stretch with the Miami Dolphins (2016-2018), he had 21 touchdown catches (15.3 percent of his catches over that span) with at least six each season.
As experienced, gettable fill-ins for Thomas go, Stills is as ideal for the Saints as he might be yawn-inducing to the general masses.
4. Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
The Jets pushed Crowder down their wide receiver pecking order with the signing of Corey Davis and by drafting Elijah Moore in the second round. With apparently little or no trade market for him, and the team not wanting to simply cut him and get nothing for him, he agreed to take a substantial pay cut to stay around.
After a solid season, all things considered, as the Jets’ No. 1 wide receiver in 2019 (78 receptions for 833 yards), Crowder started last season with a 100-yard game in Week 1. After a hamstring injury during the practice week after that cost him two games, he returned and had back-to-back 100-yard games as he totaled 29 catches for 383 yards overall in his first four games of the season–with over 100 yards three times and double-digit targets in each contest.
Either of the Saints’ quarterbacks can’t be worse than Sam Darnold was most of the time in New York, and Crowder was productive with him under center. The Jets would surely send him to New Orleans for a conditional mid-to-late-round pick.