NFL

Earl Thomas Just Became a Potential Savior for an Underrated AFC Contender

Earl Thomas still needs a new NFL team after getting released by the Baltimore Ravens. Though his name has come up as a possible fit in Dallas, Jerry Jones has yet to pull the trigger on the All-Pro safety. However, Thomas just became a potential savior for an underrated AFC contender in the wake of a significant injury.

Earl Thomas has yet to find a new NFL home

RELATED: Earl Thomas Just Secured a Clear Path to His Next NFL Team

Expected to put the Ravens over the top, Earl Thomas certainly made a strong impression in his first year in Baltimore. After signing a four-year, $55 million deal, he rewarded the Ravens with a Pro Bowl campaign. Though his team got knocked out of the playoffs earlier than expected, Thomas and the Ravens entered the offseason as a top AFC contender.

However, the former Seahawks star literally punched his way out of a job. The Ravens sent Thomas home on Friday, August 21, after he punched teammate Chuck Clark during practice. Just two days later, Baltimore cut ties with the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Available to sign with any NFL team, Thomas has yet to put pen to paper. At 31 years old, his best days are clearly behind him. However, he still showed enough skill last season to earn another NFL contract. But given his unceremonious exit from Baltimore, teams could have concerns about how Thomas will fit from a cultural standpoint.

Although, one underrated AFC contender could give the former Legion of Boom star a call sooner than later.

The Chargers just lost Derwin James to another injury

RELATED: Chargers Just Saved Justin Herbert’s Career With a Genius Hire

As the LA Chargers play their first season without Philip Rivers, they will also have to replace another key starter. While Rivers took his talents to Indianapolis, Derwin James will spend at least a portion of the 2020 NFL season on the sidelines.

The dynamic young safety suffered a torn meniscus during Sunday’s practice. According to Ian Rapoport, the potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate will miss a significant amount of time after undergoing surgery.

James joined the Chargers as the 17th overall pick just two years ago. As a rookie, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder racked up 105 tackles, 13 passes defended, three interceptions, and 3.5 sacks. However, he played just five games last year due to a stress fracture in his right foot. James also missed significant time in college with a knee injury.

His absence opens up a huge hole in a secondary that otherwise looks loaded. Without James in the lineup, though, the Chargers will no longer have one of the NFL’s most electrifying rising stars. Luckily for LA, a potential savior exists in the form of Earl Thomas.

Thomas can be a savior for the underrated AFC contender

RELATED: Where is Former Chargers Star LaDainian Tomlinson?

Defensively, the Chargers boast one of the most impressive units in the NFL. Joey Bosa headlines a front seven oozing with potential. Veterans Linval Joseph and Melvin Ingram, along with 2019 first-rounder Jerry Tillery, should wreak havoc on offensive lines.

However, LA must address the hole left behind by James’ injury in order to contend in the AFC. In a division that features Patrick Mahomes—as well as a potentially high-scoring offense in Denver—having strong safety play remains critical.

The drop-off from James to anyone else on the roster will be dramatic. On the other hand, Earl Thomas could sign a one-year, incentive-laden contract to fill a critical need. He brings championship experience and a strong track record of production. In LA, he would solidify a secondary that features a Pro Bowl cornerback tandem in Casey Hayward and Chris Harris.

The Chiefs should win the AFC West again, but the addition of another wild card spot gives LA a great chance at making the postseason. With Thomas on board, the Chargers would field a defense capable of carrying the team to a playoff berth. Plus, if James can return later in the season, it would only strengthen the safety group and give defensive coordinator Gus Bradley—who coached Thomas in Seattle—more flexibility and creativity on game days.

Ultimately, Earl Thomas can be the savior LA desperately needs in the wake of Derwin James’ knee injury. Let’s see if the Chargers bring in the former Super Bowl champion to boost their chances of contending in the AFC.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.