"He knows if he gets this thing rehabbed and is able to come back 100 percent, then (returning to the Saints is) certainly an option," coach Sean Payton said after Thursday's practice.
Payton initially announced on Wednesday that Thomas, who had surgery to repair a torn right triceps, was going to be placed on injured reserve. That would have ended the defensive tackle's season, but also would have kept him under contract with New Orleans in 2009.
However, Thomas agreed to an undisclosed payment in order to get his release.
Thomas got hurt during joint practices with the Houston Texans on Aug. 13 and was expected to need two months to recover. He said after surgery that the operation had gone well and he still hoped to play in the final 10 games of the regular season.
Payton chose to keep Thomas on the 53-player active roster after training camp, but depth on the interior defensive line became a problem when Antwan Lake injured his left groin in Sunday's season opener against Tampa Bay.
"You can keep him on your active roster and rehab him, which was the initial plan, but that's a little bit of a luxury because you're really operating then with 52 players for the first half of the season," Payton said, adding that the Saints intended to monitor his progress.
This week, the Saints signed veteran defensive tackle Alvin McKinley, who has played eight seasons in the NFL and last year saw action in 15 games for Denver, starting 10.
Thomas has spent the past two seasons with the Saints, playing in 30 games and starting 26. Last season, he was credited with 58 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Once Thomas has completed his rehabilitation, around Week 6, he may work out for and sign with any team, so long as he passes a physical.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press