3. Mike Thomas
Wide receiver Mike Thomas had his best season in 2020. The 27-year-old recorded career-highs in his first season with the Bengals last year: in 14 games, he had 21 targets, 132 receiving yards, one touchdown, and 13 catches. So why could he be on the chopping block?
Short (and obvious) answer: he’s still not good enough.
Thomas played as a reserve receiver last season and will be lucky to nab the same role this year. With Cincinnati’s top three receivers set in stone (Chase, Higgins, Boyd), Thomas will have to battle younger talent (Auden Tate) and promising newcomers (Trent Taylor) for precious minutes.
A huge part of Thomas’ recent success was explosive chemistry with Burrows, and the two enjoyed a mutually beneficially relationship that saw the quarterback-receiver duo blossom in each other’s company. Thomas hauled in 13 of 17 targets when Burrow played but failed to catch a pass when he didn’t. Also, in the two games that Thomas went for over 30 receiving yards, Burrow went for over 315 passing yards.
Sure, he played well with Burrow. But that doesn’t exactly set him apart from all the other Bengals receivers who – what do you know – also play well with the star quarterback.
At his age and with his limited skills, Thomas simply may no longer fit in the franchise’s plans.
His catch rate has a history of dipping toward the end of the season (he recorded 76.5 percent in his first seven games but finished with 61.9 percent). In his previous four years on the Rams, Thomas’ catch rate didn’t even reach 50 percent. All the signs of senility are there.
If Tate and Taylor shine in training camp and preseason, and Stanley Morgan continues to prove his indispensable value on special teams, Cincinnati could more than afford to boot Thomas.
Come season time, Thomas could find himself packing his bags and heading home.