Michael Thomas is staying in New Orleans for 2023.
The Saints are expected to retain the star receiver on an incentive-laden, one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday.
If it feels like Thomas' 1,725-yard season happened years ago, it's because it did -- 2019, to be exact. Since Thomas reset the single-season mark for receptions (149), he's played a total of 10 games over the last three seasons.
Thomas' unavailability has slowly chipped away at his value since 2019, leading to the initial belief that he might leave New Orleans. The Saints instead found a way to keep him by working with Thomas on what essentially amounts to a one-year, prove-it deal that could compensate him handsomely, should he find a way to play in more than a handful of games. Conversely, if Thomas again misses time, the Saints will be protected instead of being attached to a deal that has grown into an albatross.
When healthy, Thomas has proven to be an elite receiver, racking up 1,100-plus receiving yards in each of his first four professional seasons. That time was spent with Drew Brees, though, and those days are long gone in New Orleans.
Good news for Thomas: The Saints found a new starter under center when they signed Derek Carr to a four-year deal earlier in March. Thomas will return to find an experienced veteran with whom he can work to develop a productive partnership. In a best-case scenario, Thomas returns to form, playing the majority of New Orleans' 17 games and breaking 1,000 yards while serving as a primary target for Carr in a receiving corps that also includes Chris Olave, who just racked up 1,042 receiving yards as a rookie.
Those searching for a worst-case scenario can refer to the last three seasons for an example.
New Orleans is hoping to avoid such an outcome in 2023. Thomas will return to the field with a point to prove -- and extra money to earn.