Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the deal is a one-year contract worth $6 million.
This comes after the Houston Texans elected to release him this offseason following a torn Achilles. Houston acquired him from the Denver Broncos via a trade in October, and he played seven games for the AFC South club before suffering the injury.
He also turned himself in to police in February following a car crash in Denver and was charged with felony vehicular assault, reckless driving and no proof of insurance. Rick Sallinger of CBS Denver reported the news, noting he lost control while driving more than 40 mph over the speed limit.
Thomas was one of the best receivers in the league during his tenure with the Broncos, making four Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl. He topped 1,000 receiving yards five seasons in a row from 2012 through 2016 and tallied double-digit touchdown catches three times in that span.
He consistently demonstrated the height at 6’3″ to high-point passes in the end zone, the speed to beat defenders in press coverage and the agility to make tacklers miss in the open field.
However, the Georgia Tech product saw his 1,000-yard streak end in 2017 with 949 receiving yards, and he experienced a significant decline in production in 2018 with 59 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns split between Denver and Houston.
There are reasons to worry given the dip in statistical production and the fact he is coming off a serious injury at 31 years old, although James Palmer of NFL Network noted Thomas recovered from a torn Achilles he suffered after his rookie season in just six months.
It is unreasonable for New England to expect the version of Thomas that was a sure-fire Pro Bowler who would top 1,000 yards every season given his injury status and age, but he adds a veteran presence to the locker room and is playoff-tested with 10 postseason games and two Super Bowl appearances on his resume.
He also stressed a desire to play in 2019, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle: “My main priority right now is getting back healthy. I can still play, man. I’m not thinking about retirement. I just don’t know where it will be.”
New England gave him that chance, and he will look to add to his postseason appearances on the league’s gold standard.
Thomas also figures to help make up for the lost production following tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement and could slide right into the starting lineup when he is fully healthy. The Patriots won the Super Bowl last season despite a lack of game-changing wide receivers outside of Julian Edelman, which is a testament to their overall system and the efficiency of Tom Brady under center.
Brady figures to maximize the talent Thomas still has and gives the veteran another chance at being a productive piece on a Super Bowl contender.