The sides have agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal that could pay Thomas up to $15 million, the source told Schefter.
A parting of ways looked inevitable in January after the Saints restructured Thomas’ deal, bringing his base salary to the league minimum for 2023 and 2024 in exchange for large roster bonuses that would have made keeping him or trading him extremely difficult.
But the Saints said publicly that nothing had been decided and the move simply gave them flexibility in free agency.
It became clear the tide was turning last week after the Saints agreed to terms with former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Thomas retweeted several articles about the addition of Carr on his social media account, adding “Thank you Jesus,” in another tweet.
Carr spoke glowingly of Thomas during his introductory news conference Saturday, speaking as if they would be playing together in 2023, while Saints coach Dennis Allen sat next to the quarterback with a smile on his face.
Carr said he and Thomas got close because of their conversations on the phone. He even told Saints general manager Mickey Loomis after one of those conversations that he felt like the pair could “go out there and face the world.” Carr said the main phone conversations featured an impatient Thomas already eager to start working together in the offseason.
“I told my wife when I got off the phone, and she was like, ‘Why are you smiling?’ And I was like, ‘I love this guy!’ He’s so competitive. Just the energy that he brings, it would be very exciting … to throw him the football,” Carr said.
Thomas, a 2016 second-round draft pick, was a key part of the Saints’ offense for the first four seasons of his career. He earned two first-team All-Pro nods during that span, made the Pro Bowl three times and was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he set the league record with 149 receptions in a season.
But his past three seasons had more downs than ups, as he has played in only 10 regular-season games since the start of the 2020 season — including just three in 2022 after being sidelined with a toe injury after Week 3.
Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2020 season opener and missed the next three games. Just as he was set to return, he was benched after punching then-teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson. He wound up playing in just six games that season before going on injured reserve to rest up for the playoffs, where the Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round.
Thomas decided to delay surgery to repair a torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle until the following June, which led to a public spat with the team and former coach Sean Payton. Thomas spent the entire 2021 season on the physically unable to perform list after having a midseason setback that prevented him from returning.
When Allen took over for Payton last spring, one of his priorities was to visit with Thomas in California. Thomas spent part of the spring working out with rookie wide receiver Chris Olave and made it back for the season opener, where he caught two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons.
Overall, Thomas has played 73 games with the Saints, catching 526 passes for 6,121 yards and 35 touchdowns.