Saints making amends with disgruntled star

Despite a rocky few weeks of speculation that the New Orleans Saints and star wideout Michael Thomas could be headed for a trade, sources have told Yahoo Sports that Thomas and Saints head coach Sean Payton have had positive talks and are not seeking a split.

Two sources familiar with the talks said Payton and Thomas had a recent meeting to clear the air over two lingering issues: comments Payton made regarding his frustration over the offseason timing of Thomas’s ankle surgery; and a subsequent social media post from Thomas that suggested the wideout was now at odds with the team.

“They had a good talk about [the issues],” one source said. “I think they both believe it’s not anything that has to go any further than what is already out there. There was some frustration from both viewpoints and that was the point of the meeting.”

A second source added of the meeting: “I think and hope they worked [things] out.”

Jeff Duncan of Nola.com reported over the weekend that Thomas had failed to return calls to the team over the summer regarding his rehabilitation of his ankle and potential options for medical procedures based on his progress. That report came on the heels of comments Payton made late last month about Thomas’ ankle surgery, which is expected to keep him sidelined for the start of the season.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas is expected to miss the early part of the 2021 season while recovering from ankle surgery. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

“Obviously, we would have liked that [surgery] to have happened earlier than later — and quite honestly it should have,” Payton told Saints media on July 28, as training camp opened with Thomas sidelined.

Despite the frustration, a resolution keeping Thomas in New Orleans makes sense for both sides, particularly considering that Thomas’ extended rehabilitation clouds his trade value. Not to mention the significant salary-cap hit the Saints would absorb if he were traded. Three general managers who spoke to Yahoo Sports about Thomas’ value on the market said his trade would be dramatically impacted by a rocky 12 months of injuries and red flags that included a fight and team suspension at one point last season.

One general manager suggested that if Thomas were healthy today, his value would likely be in the neighborhood of a first- and third-round draft pick package. But two others suggested that Thomas’ value would be significantly depressed by the combination of his contract, suspension, social media drama and injury rehab — resulting in a package of second- and third-round picks, or some kind of production protections tied to any first-rounder in the package.

“It would make more sense to just ride it out, at least until he’s back on the field,” one general manager said. “If it’s not going to work after that, at least you know [as a potential trade suitor] what he can do on the field. It takes some of the risk out of an evaluation.”

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