Earl Thomas has never been shy about his desire to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He even admitted as much while still playing for the Seattle Seahawks. Since his conduct issues with the Baltimore Ravens and his subsequent release several weeks ago, there has been rampant speculation the former University of Texas standout safety could return to his native Texas and play for his favorite team.
After several weeks of vague answers from the Cowboys front office on Thomas, the organization made an interesting and, what some believe, telling move on Thursday with the release of one projected starting safety. According to Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones, Earl Thomas is a possible candidate to fill the vacancy.
Earl Thomas a top safety for a decade
In his 10 NFL seasons, Earl Thomas has been a star safety during both stops of his career. For nine years with the Seattle Seahawks, he earned six Pro Bowls appearances and three All-Pro selections. After the 2018 season, Thomas signed a four-year, $55 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
He played for the Ravens last season and finished with 49 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. He earned his seventh Pro Bowl selection. However, in the last few months, things took a turn south for Thomas on and off the field.
An altercation with his wife in May made police blotter headlines when she held him at gunpoint. After several other self-inflicted wounds by Thomas, like being late to practice more than once, and fighting with fellow safety Chuck Clark, the Ravens had seen enough. Despite his play on the field, the off-field issues were considered dealbreakers. The Ravens released Thomas.
Jerry Jones and Cowboys have never denied interest in Thomas
Last week Jerry Jones admitted there was interest in Thomas in an appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
“One of the biggest things that you weigh, and it’s the obvious, but it’s right, is you evaluate where we are at safety, where we are at the secondary, where we are at our numbers,” Jones said. “These decisions, like the one you’re talking about with Earl, they’re never served up like a softball. They always come in awkward; they always come in with a little hair on it. That’s where I step in.”
A few days later, Stephen Jones appeared on the same station. When asked if the team had reached out to Thomas, Jones answered with a non-answer.
“We don’t comment on things like that. We found that it probably works better not to say anything until it’s not a point any more or we have him, like Everson Griffen, wearing a Cowboy helmet.”
Earl Thomas is logical replacement for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
On Thursday, the Cowboys made a surprising announcement that projected starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had been released from the team, just over a week before the season opener. Stephen Jones went on 105.3 The Fan and addressed Dix’s departure.
“It just felt like at the end of the day for what we were trying to get done that we needed to go in another direction. Of course, as I always say, we’re always in the market 365 days a year to improve this football team, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
When explicitly asked about Earl Thomas, Jones was again coy on his response. But with Dix’s release, Jones’ words took on a different meaning than they did a week prior.
“Obviously, I won’t speak to any specific players, but we’ll be in the market to improve our football team. We’re certainly going to look at all avenues as we move forward here, and wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Dix’s release is really confusing and poorly timed if the Cowboys made such a bold move, a little more than a week before the season opener, and didn’t have a backup plan in place. Earl Thomas seems to be the ideal replacement. For Cowboys fans, it almost seems too good to be true. The next week or so should provide an answer to that question.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.