The race is on among a handful of NFL teams to determine how much three-time first-team All-Pro safety Earl Thomas could help them following his release by the Baltimore Ravens. What they should really be looking at is how much Thomas might hurt him.
The stories coming out about the 11th-year pro indicate that signing Thomas might be the very definition of subtraction by addition.
Recent incidents overshadow Earl Thomas’ decade of stellar play
A casual football fan might not have more than three recollections of NFL player Earl Thomas – and all of them are bad. That is unfortunate since Thomas has generally performed well on the field since the Seattle Seahawks made him a first-round draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Texas. In nine years with the Seahawks and one with the Baltimore Ravens, the safety has made 30 interceptions and 713 tackles.
Thomas earned first-team All-Pro honors three times and selection to the Pro Bowl in seven seasons. He was also instrumental in helping the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory after the 2013 season.
And what do casual fans know about Thomas?
- While being carted off the field with a broken leg during a game early in the 2018 season, Thomas flipped off Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
- In an incident this spring, Thomas’ wife allegedly held the player at gunpoint after finding him and his brother in bed with other women. Nina Thomas was arrested on domestic violence charges and is due back in court Sept. 3.
- Three weeks from the start of his second season in a four-year, $55 million contract with the Ravens, the team released Thomas following a practice-field fracas with teammate Chuck Clark on Aug. 21.
The trouble in Baltimore ran deeper than we realized
The decision by the Baltimore Ravens to release Earl Thomas prompted ESPN to chronicle recent red flags that respected general manager Eric DeCosta probably now wishes he’d seen before rather than after signing the safety to a four-year, $55 million contract ahead of the 2019 season.
With his relationship with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll beyond repair, Thomas jumped into free agency in March 2019 and immediately agreed verbally to a one-year, $12 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Thomas backed out to sign with the Ravens while the Chiefs were arranging for a private jet to come get Thomas.
Before the Ravens played the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3, Thomas boasted that he planned on “eliminating all the big plays.” Patrick Mahomes’ offense lit up the Baltimore defense for 503 yards, including 363 through the air.
The following week, Thomas gave up at midfield as Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns ripped off an 88-year touchdown to sew up an upset victory. Thomas said he didn’t want to injure a hamstring, but he confronted defensive lineman Brandon Williams afterward for not suiting up that day.
With a bye week next on the schedule, Thomas didn’t fly back to Baltimore with the team after an Oct. 20 victory in Seattle, where he played nine seasons. That caused him to miss two days of meetings.
The day that the Ravens realized signing Earl Thomas was a mistake
Earl Thomas’ fight with teammate Chuck Clark after Thomas blew a coverage during a practice drill last week was the proverbial last straw leading the Baltimore Ravens to cut ties with the safety.
Appearing on the NFL Network in the aftermath, reporter Mike Silver said Thomas showed up late or not at all for a number of meetings last season. The fines and warnings simply did not make an impact on Thomas, and the behavior continued this month as the Ravens returned to training camp.
According to Silver, Thomas said last week he needed more time between practices and meetings. Just days before the altercation with Clark, Thomas pulled his all-time diva move by explaining he was late because he was having his car washed.
Some general manager will come along to sign Thomas, thus keeping him from being washed up as a professional athlete. But one must wonder if he’ll be worth the aggravation.