Do the Saints have a Michael Thomas problem?
The Saints currently have more than a few problems. Among the various problems, they have a Michael Thomas problem, unrelated to his problematic ankle.
Jeff Duncan of TheAthletic.com recently addressed issues stretching far beyond the fight with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson that resulted in a one-game suspension.
Duncan reports that the suspension “had less to do” with the fight than it did his conduct after the fight. He reportedly “talked back” to coaches (including the head coach) and “obstinately refused counsel” after the incident. It was the insubordination demonstrated by Thomas that resulted in his suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
Duncan explains that the Saints were sending Thomas a message, based on a growing reputation for being “difficult.” He “too often” has “crossed the line,” per Duncan, barking at trainers for failing to properly tape his ankle, accusing a staff member of going through his mail, and generally demonstrating an “unpredictable, aloof personality” that has alienated the team’s P.R. staff.
At one point, coach Sean Payton had to address the situation directly with Thomas during training camp.
“What makes him great is also what makes him difficult,” a source close to Thomas told Duncan. “Michael can be his own worst enemy at times.”
For now, it should be no surprise to Thomas that he has cost himself a game check. With a base salary of $1 million this year, that’s only $58,823. Here’s the other far more problematic wrinkle: The suspension jeopardizes his remaining guarantees, amounting to $12.6 million in 2021 and $15.35 million in 2022.
Per the language of the contract, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the suspension makes those guarantees “null and void.” That would leave Thomas without the full financial security that comes from his long-term contract, and it would allow the Saints to easily move on from him after either of the next two seasons if his performance dips, if he can’t stay healthy, or if they simply decide they’ve had enough.
UPDATE 12:50 p.m. ET: Contract to multiple reports, Thomas was not suspended. He was fined. This takes the voiding of guarantees out of the play. For now. Further problems could result in a suspension, and an attack on the remaining guarantees.