Sean Payton has become a lightning rod in New Orleans. His lackluster play has led to this Saints team being one of the worst in recent memory. As a result, Payton’s job is in jeopardy. The rumors have swirled on whether he will be fired or not. Some fans are calling for him to be fired, but it’s also led to some calls for him to be “given a vote of confidence”.

The New Orleans Saints are reportedly working out a contract extension with head coach Sean Payton. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter. Payton has been the head coach of the Saints since 2006, and this season he led the team to a 9-7 record. The Saints have been a playoff contender since 2010, but the team has not won a playoff game since their 2012 Super Bowl victory. The Saints lost 26-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC divisional round on Sunday.

The Saints lost a huge offensive weapon on Wednesday when wide receiver Brandin Cooks was signed by the New England Patriots. It’s a move that will likely hurt the Saints, but it doesn’t mean New Orleans is suddenly a bad team.

Nobody knows what the New Orleans Saints will be like without Drew Brees as their quarterback. While fans got a peek of that reality last year, Sean Payton will face a significant challenge in keeping the unit running with a new starting quarterback at the helm.

Of course, having their top receiver available would put the defending NFC South champs in a considerably better position moving into the 2021 season. Despite the fact that Michael Thomas won’t be playing for a long, his head coach made a critical move to save the Saints from a major blow to an offense that already had to replace its renowned quarterback.

In New Orleans, the Michael Thomas case has been a major source of diversion.

Michael Thomas’ 2020 season did not proceed as planned. The 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year only has 40 receptions in seven games due to a persistent ankle issue. In addition, the two-time first-team All-Pro didn’t help himself by hitting teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson in practice, which led in a $58,823 fine and a missed game. 

Thomas didn’t live up to expectations last season, despite being one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL. And it doesn’t appear that he’ll be able to justify his $10.1 million cap charge this season. Thomas reportedly postponed surgery on his ankle, putting him out for about a third of the 2017 season. For a Saints club that needs to prove it can win without Brees, his decision could be costly.

The controversy surrounding Thomas and his apparent discontent has created doubts about his long-term prospects in New Orleans. The 28-year-old is under contract through the 2024 season and appears to be a guy who would generate a lot of attention if he were to be traded. The Saints, on the other hand, may not want to part with a proven playmaker who earned a record-setting contract extension two summers ago.

Sean Payton takes a key measure to keep the Saints’ offense from suffering a setback.

Over the last year or so, the chance of Thomas playing for another team has become more feasible. With all that’s happened this offseason, whispers of a possible trade involving the four-time Pro Bowler aren’t going away anytime soon. Indeed, when Thomas made a mysterious remark on Twitter lately, the rumblings reached new heights. 

However, the Saints’ relationship with perhaps their most important player has taken an unexpected turn. Sean Payton, unsurprisingly, took the proper precautions to ensure that his offense did not suffer a major setback. And, as with any attempt to address a disagreement or issue between two people, getting the ball moving in the proper direction required the engagement of both parties. 

According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, Payton and Thomas met recently to clear the air after the Saints head coach expressed his displeasure with the timing of Thomas’ operation. They also met to talk about Thomas’ wish to stay in New Orleans, which was sparked via a social media post.

A insider told Robinson, “They had a decent chat about [the difficulties].” “I suppose they both believe there isn’t anything that needs to be done that isn’t already done. Both perspectives were frustrated, and that was the goal of the meeting.”

Given that Thomas elected not to return calls to the team throughout the summer regarding his bothersome ankle, the fact that he spoke with Payton means better days are on the way, according to Jeff Duncan of Nola.com. Direct communication, rather than the media or Twitter, appears to be a preferable way to reach a resolution. So, if the two men genuinely came to an agreement, it’s good news for a Saints offense in desperate need of a healthy, focused version of Thomas in the lineup.

Will the Saints be able to score enough points on offense to win a postseason berth?

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches his team play the Jacksonville Jaguars.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches his team play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sean Payton, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, watches his team play in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Getty Images/Julio Aguilar

Just because the Thomas issue appears to be improving doesn’t imply the Saints will be able to end their playoff drought. After all, meeting with Payton isn’t going to help him speed up his rehabilitation.

Without the services of one of the league’s most effective pass catchers, New Orleans will have to find a way to routinely put points on the board. Thomas is anticipated to return by Week 7. Despite his failure to impress in 2020, Thomas demonstrated his ability to carry the Saints’ passing game from 2017 to 2019. Before his record-setting 2019 season, the team showed its faith in the former Ohio State great by offering him a five-year, $96.5 million extension.

Unfortunately for the Saints, their receiving corps isn’t especially strong, and quarterback uncertainty further adds to the uncertainty about how the offense will appear in 2021.

Fortunately for Payton, the offensive line should not be a concern. And there’s no reason Alvin Kamara can’t keep putting up big numbers as a dual-threat backfield weapon.

Can the Saints produce enough plays in the passing game to keep up with the Buccaneers for the division title if Thomas misses additional time? It’s fair to wonder if New Orleans will take a huge step back on offensive based on their current wide receiver depth chart and the predicted drop from Brees to Winston or Hill.

And even if he does return, will Michael Thomas be able to reclaim his pre-injury form?

In the end, the Saints’ insecurity makes them difficult to root for as a legitimate Super Bowl candidate.

Pro Football Reference provided all statistics. Spotrac provided all contract information.

RELATED: Bill Belichick Has a Rare Opportunity to Make a Franchise-Shifting Power Move That Will Launch Mac Jones to Stardom

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