METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas underwent ankle surgery in June and could miss time at the start of the season as a result, a source told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.
Thomas, 28, was plagued by the ankle injury throughout last season, and ESPN's Adam Schefter had previously reported that he was expected to undergo surgery to repair the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle.
It is unclear why Thomas had surgery so late in the offseason, but the goal is a full recovery.
Thomas missed nine games over two stints on injured reserve last season after initially injuring the ankle in Week 1. He finished with 40 catches for 438 yards in the regular season and didn't catch his first touchdown pass until the playoffs.
Not having Thomas available would increase the degree of difficulty for Saints quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as they battle to replace the retired Drew Brees. The Saints were already thin on playmakers after parting ways with No. 2 wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill this offseason.
The Saints recently created more than $10 million in cap space through contract restructures and extensions and could look to add a veteran wide receiver as they approach the start of training camp next week. They will also be counting heavily on fourth-year receiver Tre'Quan Smith, second-year receiver Marquez Callaway, third-year receiver Deonte Harris and second-year tight end Adam Trautman, among others.
New Orleans also lost standout defensive tackle David Onyemata to a six-game suspension last week for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore could also face league discipline after being arrested on a stolen gun charge earlier this offseason.
Combined with some of their offseason roster moves, the Saints will have at least nine new starters in Week 1 if Thomas isn't ready to play against the Green Bay Packers. The Saints could also look to add veteran depth at cornerback and defensive tackle in the coming weeks.
Thomas has been a go-to guy for Brees and Saints backups Teddy Bridgewater and Hill throughout his stellar five-year career. Despite the ankle injury, he had two games with nine catches and more than 100 receiving yards during Hill's four-game stint as the starter last year while Brees was dealing with injuries.
Thomas was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he set a league record with 149 receptions. His 510 career receptions are the most by a player in the first five seasons of his career.