Michael Thomas landing spots: Rams, Chargers among teams that could vie for former Saints WR

After eight years in the Bayou, Michael Thomas is searching for a new home.

The Saints released the former All-Pro wideout Wednesday, spelling an end to a tenure that started with fanfare but closed with a whimper. Thomas recorded 565 catches, 6,569 yards and 36 touchdowns in New Orleans, the vast majority of which came during his first four seasons in the league.

Thomas appeared in just 20 games over his final four years in NOLA as he struggled to stay on the field amid a string of injuries. He’s far from his swaggering peak, when he leapt beyond outstretched markers to rip unruly passes out of the night sky. Thomas earned AP Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2019.

Nevertheless, his reputation precedes him. Although Thomas is 31 and past his prime, he still could offer a veteran option for NFL teams.

Where could Thomas land for the 2024 NFL season? The Sporting News examines some rosters that could do with Thomas’ services.

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Michael Thomas landing spots

Rams

Los Angeles is a city built by the stars. Could (one of) its football teams afford to house another one?

The Rams are teeming with offensive firepower. Puka Nacua enjoyed one of the most productive debut seasons in league history last year en route to second-team All-Pro honors. Kyren Williams was one of the league’s best runners, finishing third in the NFL in rushing yards.

And while Cooper Kupp wasn’t able to retain the blistering pace he set when he flirted with Calvin Johnson’s single-season yardage record in 2021, he showed signs of life in an injury-plagued season. Kupp nabbed 26 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns in his final four games.

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All of that is to say, there’s plenty of talent contained within Los Angeles’ attack. That’s not to mention the play of Matthew Stafford, who turned back the clock to put together another stellar campaign.

Thomas is not who he once was. Nagging maladies have zapped away much of what made him special during the early portions of his career. But sharing the field with Nacua and Kupp as a third-tier target would do a lot to alleviate those concerns.

Thomas wouldn’t have to be All-Pro in Tinseltown. He’d simply have to be better than the likes of Tutu Atwell and Demarcus Robinson. Given the fact that he was practically even with them in terms of targets, catches and yards in 2023 despite playing in six fewer games, that seems a real possibility for the 30-year old veteran.

Chargers

Austin Ekeler’s departure leaves a hole in the Chargers’ passing game, one that Jim Harbaugh’s side could struggle to fill.

Ekeler was a pass-catching machine during his time in Los Angeles, twice exceeding 90 grabs in a single year. Where could all of those targets be heading in 2024? Perhaps Thomas, who could help to fill in the void left by the departures of Ekeler and Mike Williams.

Williams and Thomas aren’t dissimilar. At 6-3, 212 pounds, Thomas shares Williams’ archetype as a QB safety cushion in the red zone. Of Thomas’ 36 career touchdown grabs, 31 have come inside the opposition’s 20-yard line, including three of his last four scores.

With the rest of the Bolts’ receiving corps sans Allen still a question mark, perhaps Thomas could wiggle his way in as a potential release valve for star quarterback Justin Herbert. He certainly has the frame to do so.

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Steelers

Pittsburgh’s placement on this list stems from one of a few factors. For starters, they acquired Russell Wilson. The 35-year old represents a clear step up from the lukewarm play of Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. His arrival should prompt something of a sea change for Mike Tomlin’s men, who arguably haven’t had an above-average hurler since the 2020 season.

Over the years, Tomlin’s style has been predicated on the run. With Wilson on the horizon, however, perhaps the system could change. That could be just the sort of environment that Thomas could thrive in, especially after former No. 1 Diontae Johnson was dealt to the Panthers.

MORE: Steelers send Diontae Johnson to Panthers

Thomas is no No. 1. In Pittsburgh, but he wouldn’t have to be — not with George Pickens strutting around the premises. And with Wilson at the helm, maybe Thomas could resurrect his career in the Steel City.

Patriots

The Patriots are desperate for receiving talent, hoping to shake things up after a dull season that saw Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones string together some of the worst quarterback play in the league.

MORE: Patriots want to take a QB with No. 3 pick in 2024 NFL Draft

Jones is out the door; he was dealt to the Jaguars. Zappe could very well be joining him. In their stead, New England is expected to draft a quarterback, perhaps Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels.

Whoever is under center likely need some reinforcements — Demario Davis, Kendrick Bourne and JuJu Smith-Schuster don’t strike many as an NFL-quality WR room.

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Thomas may not be the answer. But it can’t get worst than it did last season for the Patriots, so any addition could be welcomed with open arms.

Giants

Rounding off the list of teams that could potentially make a move for Thomas is Big Blue.

Much like the other teams listed, the Giants have scarce options in the open field. Saquon Barkley’s exit should make that crystal-clear. And although a healthy Darren Waller is a nice piece, New York’s front office has struggled to surround any of their better skill players with talent befitting of a professional side over the years.

Darius Slayton was solid if unspectacular in 2023, recording 770 yards and four touchdowns as the Giants’ No. 1. Wan’Dale Robinson wasn’t much better as the second option. You’d have to imagine a somewhat healthy Thomas could offer slightly more security for whoever is firing off arrows in New York’s backfield, be it Daniel Jones or someone else.

Honorable mention

The Broncos are still searching for another pass-catching option after sending Jerry Jeudy to the Browns, although their lack of clarity under center could steer Thomas away.

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