League sources told ESPN, NFL Media and The Athletic on Friday that Thomas had surgery on the ankle last month. According to the outlets, he underwent the procedure to repair multiple injured ligaments in his ankle.
The Athletic reported that Thomas, who was plagued by the ankle injury throughout last season, could miss up to five games in the 2021 campaign as a result of the ailment. It remains unclear why the wideout waited so late in the off-season to have the operation.
Thomas missed nine combined games across two stints on injured reserve last season after initially hurting the ankle in Week 1. He finished with 40 catches for 438 yards in the regular season and didn't record his first receiving touchdown until the playoffs.
The 28-year-old Thomas was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he established a league record with 149 receptions.
In Thomas' absence, the Saints could lean on fourth-year receiver Tre'Quan Smith and second-year wideout Marquez Callaway. New Orleans also has Deonte Harris and tight end Adam Trautman, among others.
The Saints lost veteran pass-catchers Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook and Josh Hill earlier this off-season, creating a need for playmakers. New Orleans recently created more than $10 million in salary-cap space through restructures and extensions, and the team could look to add a veteran offensive weapon entering training camp next week.