The New Orleans Saints were dealt a serious blow on Friday as it was revealed that superstar wideout Michael Thomas will miss the start of the 2021 NFL season after undergoing offseason ankle surgery in June. According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Saints are now shopping around free agency to find a suitable replacement.
Considering how the Saints' wide receiver depth beyond Thomas isn't that great, it makes sense that they would want to look into their options.
Here's a look at the three most likely free-agent replacements for Thomas.
Free Agent Wide Receivers 2021
1. Golden Tate
If the Saints are looking for someone who has experience as a No. 1 wideout, look no further than Golden Tate. He never had a peak as high as Thomas', but he does have three 1K-plus-yard seasons under his belt. Tate's 2020 stats were a bit underwhelming (388 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns), however, that's largely due to a diminished role in the New York Giants offense as he started in just four of 12 games. Perhaps he can put up more impressive numbers in a bigger role with the Saints. After all, he did record 676 yards and 6 touchdowns in 11 games (10 starts) with the Giants in 2019, which would put him on pace for 1,044 yards and 9 TDs in a 17-game season.
2. Danny Amendola
While he's never been a No. 1 wide receiver, Danny Amendola has been consistent throughout his NFL career. The veteran wideout has recorded at least 600 receiving yards seven times in his 12-year career, including three times in the last four seasons. He caught 66.7% of his targets last year for 602 receiving yards as well, but failed to find the endzone. Nevertheless, Amendola has been dependable wherever he's gone and has stepped up before when needed. If the Saints would rather go with a proven commodity instead of chancing it on a high-risk younger player, a wideout like Amendola is the way to go.
3. Larry Fitzgerald
It would certainly be tough to see Larry Fitzgerald playing for anyone but the Arizona Cardinals after all this time. However, the Saints are desperate and Fitzgerald still hasn't been signed to a team, so it's a situation worth checking out. The 37-year-old likely doesn't have any 1,000-yard seasons left in him, but he's still managed to stay somewhat effective even at this stage of his career. He caught 75.0% of his targets in 13 games last season, recording 409 receiving yards and a touchdown. The thing is that he was lost in the shuffle playing behind DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk in Arizona, so it remains to be seen what he can still do in a bigger role. Fitzgerald can begin the season as Thomas' replacement before sliding into a No. 2 or even No. 3 WR role when the latter returns to the lineup. That way the Saints get some initial relief while also having a veteran option that they can depend on throughout the rest of the 2021 campaign.
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