No, the Ravens Aren’t Going to Trade for Michael Thomas

Saints Michael Thomas

Getty Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas makes a tough catch against the Atlanta Falcons in December 2020.

The Baltimore Ravens were named by CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin as one of seven NFL teams who could make a play for disgruntled New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas.

Rumors have been swirling about the two-time All-Pro for almost a year, intensifying after Thomas posted a cryptic message on Twitter apparently alleging that the Saints were trying to damage his reputation.

Benjamin thinks the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year would be a good fit in Baltimore, writing:

They’d need to move some money around to make it work, but they’ve been sniffing around veteran receivers all offseason in hopes of helping out QB Lamar JacksonRashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins may very well help the aerial game alongside Marquise Brown, but Thomas would be the most natural target for Jackson, especially in a run-heavy, short-area passing attack. Baltimore is obviously also solely focused on winning now, and they reside comfortably outside of the NFC.

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But if Thomas is really on the trade block, it’s exceedingly unlikely he joins the Ravens, due both to the team’s financial situation and current offensive personnel.

Cap-Strapped with Extensions to Come

Benjamin understated the difficulty the Ravens would face to accommodate Thomas’ $10.1 million salary cap hit with just $7.7 million in estimated cap space, according to Spotrac.

The Ravens could make it work with a few contract restructures and roster cuts, but general manager Eric DeCosta has spent the offseason carefully building a team that has depth on both sides of the ball. It’s unlikely that EDC throws the team’s roster into flux to add Thomas, despite his pedigree at the wideout position.

But Thomas’ 2021 cap hit is nothing compared to the next three years, during which he will count for more than $24 million each year against his team’s salary cap. The Ravens have a slew of key contributors whose contracts expire after this season, most of whom they will be eager to resign or extend.

Star quarterback Lamar Jackson is negotiating a long-term extension with the team that’s likely to have an average annual value of upwards of $40 million per year. Tight end Mark Andrews, who leads the Ravens in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since 2018, is also due for a new deal. Offensive linemen Bradley Bozeman and Patrick Mekari will be free agents in 2022, as will starting safety DeShon Elliott. Free agent signing Sammy Watkins only agreed to a one-year deal with the Ravens, so the team could extend him as well if he makes an immediate impact on the passing game.

Considering the contracts already on the Ravens’ books, plus the hefty extensions they’re likely to dole out, it’s unlikely that the front office can make Thomas’ salary work for the team.

New Season, New Receivers

DeCosta worked throughout the offseason to improve the Ravens’ wide receivers, adding Watkins in free agency and rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the draft. The Ravens wide receiver room is suddenly very crowded, with 2019 third-rounder Miles Boykin and 2020 sixth-rounder James Proche potentially competing for a roster spot, with several other receivers on the outside looking in.

While Thomas would undoubtedly be the team’s best receiver, the Ravens would be wasting their heavy investment into targets for Lamar Jackson.

Thomas would push everyone down the depth chart, potentially stunting the development of the Ravens’ promising young receivers, especially Bateman and Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. Even though Bateman and Brown are both dealing with injuries, the Ravens are unlikely to push the panic button and pursue Thomas.

Benjamin argued that the Raven are “solely focused on winning now,” but years of the team’s roster building patterns indicate the opposite. The Ravens’ front office is known for building competitive teams each year without sacrificing the future. The Saints’ ask for their All-Pro wideout will likely be too high for the Ravens to make a deal.

Especially in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense, Thomas will not make enough of an impact to justify trading assets and tying up cap space for years to come. Fans shouldn’t hold their breaths waiting for the Ravens to trade for him.

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