Earl Thomas

Earl Thomas, Ravens Continue Battle

The Ravens released Earl Thomas before the start of the 2020 season. As they look ahead to the 2021 slate, the safety’s grievance case remains unresolved, as Daniel Oyefusi of The Baltimore Sun writes.

[RELATED: Ravens Hope To Re-Up Mark Andrews]

That’s ongoing,” said Ravens GM Eric DeCosta. “There are some different moving parts. So, I’ll sort of answer that question like that, and just say that it’s ongoing...There are always a lot of different things, and there are all these different elements to an offseason,” DeCosta said. “We don’t even know what the salary cap is going to be yet. It’s hard to build a football team without a salary cap — not knowing what the salary cap is going to be. So, the Earl Thomas situation is just one part of that.”

Thomas was due a guaranteed $10MM in base salary this season before his release. However, the Ravens cited “personal conduct” that “adversely affected” the team to try and void the commitment. While things are in limbo, the Ravens are carrying a $4MM charge on the 2021 books. If Thomas wins, the remaining $6MM will be tacked on.

As DeCosta suggested, that’d be a significant strike against their flexibility given the league’s salary cap uncertainty. Thomas, meanwhile, is free to sign with any team, though he was out of football last year.

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Earl Thomas Files Grievance Against Ravens

Earl Thomas has followed through with the rumored grievance he was planning to file against the Ravens, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The free agent safety was due a $10MM base salary this season, but the Ravens cut him in August. They will now be forced to carry some of Thomas’ salary on their books.

Baltimore’s cap sheet now includes a $5MM Thomas number, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, with teams having to carry half of players’ salaries while grievances are pending. The Ravens terminated Thomas’ contract in August, and the team’s language pointed to a conduct-detrimental release. Thomas’ 2020 salary was guaranteed for skill and injury, setting up this grievance. The Ravens signed Thomas to a four-year, $55MM deal in March 2019.

This marks the first piece of Thomas news in a few weeks, which is certainly notable given his All-Decade acclaim and age (31). The Cowboys were linked to Thomas shortly after his Ravens release. Despite once offering the Seahawks a second-round pick for the All-Pro defender, the Cowboys passed. The Texans were set to work out Thomas earlier this season, but they moved in a different direction — after some reported pushback from players.

As a result of this grievance, the Ravens’ cap space dropped under $5MM. Without Thomas, Baltimore’s defense ranks fourth in DVOA. The Ravens have used Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott as their safety starters.

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Extra Points: Gordon, Brown, Thomas, Texans

A pair of high profile players, receiver Josh Gordon of the Seahawks and defensive lineman David Irving, are both still waiting on answers from the league office. Both are suspended indefinitely, and decisions on reinstatement are overdue under the terms set by the collective bargaining agreement, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes. Gordon applied for reinstatement in June and Irving in July and neither has heard back yet despite the CBA stipulating a decision is supposed to be made within 60 days, according to Schefter.”David has done everything asked of him,” Irving’s agent Steve Weinberg said. “He’s been drug tested, he’s met with doctors and I don’t get it. Why have 60 days in the program if they’re not going to abide by it.”

We’re baffled why we don’t have a decision,” Weinberg continued. “We’re at a loss as to why this hasn’t been ruled on yet.” Gordon has an agreement in place with the Seahawks, but can’t officially sign until Roger Goodell gives him the go-ahead. Irving is a free agent. Both have been suspended numerous times for substance abuse policy violations, and Irving announced in 2019 he was quitting football before changing his mind back in February. Both players are talented and still relatively young, and it’s unclear what the holdup is. Perhaps the league scrambling to make COVID-19 related changes has put certain things on the backburner. We’ll keep you posted whenever the league responds.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of guys in trouble with the league office, we have an Antonio Brown update to pass along. The embattled receiver is dropping his countersuit against the woman who accused him of sexual assault, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). He also requested an extension to turn over evidence related to the civil case against him. In a follow-up tweet Pelissero notes that his suspension could be extended if new evidence emerges. Brown is now halfway through the eight-game suspension he was hit with earlier this year. Given his undeniable talent it would seem likely a team gives him a shot at some point once his ban is over if he can avoid anymore off-field trouble. Texans coach Bill O’Brien seemed to leave the door open to bringing in Brown a couple of weeks ago, but that was quickly followed by a report indicating that won’t be happening.
  • Brown isn’t the only controversial veteran the Texans have flirted with. Last week it looked like Earl Thomas was on the verge of signing in Houston, only for things to fall apart at the last minute. Now we have more clarity on what changed. “Numerous” Texans players spoke up about their desire not to have the veteran safety in the locker room, sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. That apparently convinced O’Brien, who is also the team’s GM, to back off. Thomas has developed a reputation for being difficult to get along with in recent years, even though that wasn’t an issue early in his career with the Seahawks. He had a bitter divorce from Seattle, and was then of course cut by the Ravens after getting into a fight with a teammate and having Baltimore’s veterans ask the front office for his release. Houston played the Ravens in Week 2, and La Canfora notes that the subject of Thomas came up during conversations between players on the two teams. If he’s this strongly disliked by some of his fellow players, it could be a while before Thomas finds a new home.

Texans To Pass On Earl Thomas?

Earl Thomas‘ scheduled workout with the Texans was scuttled, and head coach Bill O’Brien says it was due to the league’s most recent COVID-19 advisory (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). However, that’s not quite the full story, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), who hears that the Texans do not currently see Thomas as a great fit for their locker room. 

[RELATED: Texans Sign Corey Liuget]

Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler, left his past two clubs on bad terms. In Seattle, Thomas literally left the team with an extended middle finger as he was carted off of the field. In Baltimore, Thomas failed to grasp the playbook in his first year and wore out his welcome last week when he got into an altercation with a teammate.

Thomas’ perceived attitude problems would explain his ongoing unemployment. The years-long love affair between Thomas and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not result in a deal this year, and the Chargers were quick to pass on him after losing star Derwin James for the season.

For now, the Texans will continue with third-year starter Justin Reid and newcomer Eric Murray as their starting safeties. Meanwhile, they’re without key backup A.J. Moore, who has been placed on IR due to the hamstring injury he suffered against the Steelers.

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Latest On Texans, Earl Thomas

Some conflicting accounts emerged Tuesday after the cancellation of Earl Thomas‘ Texans workout. The All-Pro safety’s agents indicate Bill O’Brien informed them that the NFL informed him to nix Thomas’ workout because of COVID-19 concerns, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Thomas’ Houston audition was scheduled for Tuesday, but the Texans reportedly sent him home. The Texans are somewhat connected to the Titans-Vikings coronavirus situation, in being scheduled to host the Vikes on Sunday. However, the Texans worked out four other players Tuesday, Howard Balzer of SI.com tweets.

Another report points to the Texans souring on Thomas. The Texans were previously reported to be the likely destination for the former Seahawks and Ravens defender, but the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain notes that internal team discussions determined Thomas would not be a good fit (Twitter link).

The Ravens released Thomas in August after a practice skirmish with fellow Baltimore safety Chuck Clark. Ravens veterans supported the move. Other teams — most notably the Cowboys — have been connected to Thomas, but the Texans visit marked the most newsworthy development since the 31-year-old safety became a free agent. Interestingly, an August report categorized the Texans as a non-suitor as well.

While the Texans door may not be fully closed, the 10-year veteran remains unattached as October looms. Houston has used third-year starter Justin Reid and March free agency addition Eric Murray as its first-string safeties this season.

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Texans’ Earl Thomas Visit On Hold

TUESDAY: Perhaps this process has hit a snag. Thomas’ Texans visit is on hold, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets. It was scheduled for Tuesday. Should Thomas join the Texans, he would have to go through COVID-19 protocols. Delays would obviously stall the 10-year veteran’s 2020 debut. The Cowboys remain a non-factor regarding Thomas, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telgram tweets.

The Texans sent Thomas home prior to the workout, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The team planned to work out five safeties; none of those auditions have transpired, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Thomas has taken an offsite physical, he continues to wait on a team to green-light his 11th season.

MONDAY: The Texans are giving Earl Thomas a look. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the veteran safety has a Houston workout scheduled. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that “his signing this week is more likely than not.”

Following a physical altercation with teammate Chuck Clark at practice, Thomas was released by the Ravens back in August. The three-time first-team All-Pro hasn’t seen much of a market over the past month. While the Cowboys had consistently been connected to the veteran, the team still hasn’t brought him in for an audition. The Falcons were considered a destination because of Thomas’s connection to head coach Dan Quinn, but they’ve already been ruled out.

The Texans were connected to Thomas shortly after his release from the Ravens, and he subsequently picked up an endorsement from quarterback Deshaun Watson on Instagram. However, following the safety’s release from the Ravens, reports indicated that Houston wouldn’t make a run at the veteran. Things have changed a bit, though, as the Texans could use some depth after placing A.J. Moore on the injured reserve (per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter). They’re currently rostering only three safeties in Justin Reid, Eric Murray, and Michael Thomas.

It was only a year ago that Thomas inked a four-year, $55MM deal with the Ravens. While he received some criticism for missing team and position meetings, he was still productive on the field. While he struggled a bit to start the 2019 campaign, he improved enough throughout the season to earn his seventh career Pro Bowl appearance. The 31-year-old ultimately finished the campaign having compiled 49 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.

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Chargers Not Pursuing Earl Thomas

Despite carrying one of the league’s most talented secondaries to training camp, the Chargers are in familiar trouble. Derwin Jamesknee issue will cost him games at the start of a season for the second straight year.

The Bolts have four All-Pros in their secondary but are missing their highest-ceiling talent for the foreseeable future. They are not interested in the All-Pro safety currently in free agency. Anthony Lynn said Monday the team is not planning to pursue Earl Thomas, per The Athletic’s Daniel Popper (on Twitter).

Even without James, Los Angeles’ secondary includes Casey Hayward, Desmond King and free agency addition Chris Harris. King, a 2018 All-Pro cornerback who saw action at safety in college, has been working as a second-string safety in camp. The Bolts also have 2019 second-round pick Nasir Adderley and 2019 substitute starter Rayshawn Jenkins. They drafted Alohi Gilman in this year’s sixth round. It appears Los Angeles will stick with its in-house options to replace James.

The Ravens released Thomas earlier this month. Joining Harris on the 2010s’ All-Decade team, Thomas certainly carries top-flight ability. Even entering his age-31 season, the three-time All-Pro is one of the game’s top safeties. But he suddenly carries some baggage. Teams are clearly doing homework on the former Legion of Boom centerpiece, but as of Monday, his market has not seen much momentum.

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Ravens Frontrunners To Sign Jadeveon Clowney?

The Ravens find themselves with a bit of surprise salary cap room following the release of safety Earl Thomas earlier this week. Baltimore is attempting to void Thomas’ guaranteed 2020 salary of $10MM pursuant to the personal conduct provision of his contract, so the club will temporarily pick up an extra $10MM of cap space.

As Joel Corry of CBS Sports details, that number will drop to $6MM once Thomas files his inevitable grievance, and $4MM will become a cap charge under the terms of the CBA. If Thomas prevails in the grievance, the $6MM of newfound space will of course be added back to the Ravens’ books, and if the team prevails, it will be credited back the $4MM hold.

But the grievance may not be resolved until 2021, so it’s looking as if the Ravens will indeed have another $6MM to play with this year. And while the expected salary cap decrease in 2021 and the upcoming fight with the union over Thomas’ salary could make Baltimore hesitant to spend that money, the club currently profiles as a Super Bowl favorite, so it might make sense to add another piece that can aid in the push for a Lomabrdi Trophy. Plus, Thomas did have offset language in his contract, so if and when he signs with another club, Baltimore will get at least some cap relief regardless of how the grievance process unfolds.

Enter Jadeveon Clowney. The most-discussed free agent of the 2020 offseason is still without a home, and while the Ravens have been loosely connected to him over the past few months, his salary demands have been viewed as an insurmountable obstacle. However, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network said in a recent podcast that league insiders believe Clowney will ultimately land with Baltimore (via Cole Thompson of Pro Football Network).

As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic points out, the Ravens have monitored Clowney’s market, but even when accounting for an extra $6MM of cap space, the club has just $13MM to work with and will want to keep about half of that in reserve. So if Clowney is to end up in the Purple-and-Black, it will be for a salary in the $6-7MM range — which feels like an absolute non-starter for him — or the team will need to get creative.

Clowney does make plenty of sense for Baltimore. The team has beefed up its defensive front this offseason but could still use another proven pass rusher behind Matt Judon, and Clowney’s skills against the run would make him a valuable chess piece in DC Wink Martindale‘s creative schemes. The team has also expressed interest in Ziggy Ansah, who is a more one-dimensional player but who would come much cheaper than Clowney.

Interestingly, Pauline says the division-rival Steelers have also been sniffing around Clowney, but Pittsburgh has even less cap space than Baltimore and would likely need to trade Bud Dupree to make a Clowney deal work.

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AFC North Notes: Green, Browns, Ravens

In addition to the lengthy foot rehab in which A.J. Green participated recently, the veteran Bengals wide receiver missed more than a week of training camp because of a hamstring issue. Green entered Wednesday having not practice since August 17, but the 10th-year receiver was back in action this afternoon, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon (on Twitter). While Green was wearing a sleeve on his left leg, he was working in pads for the Bengals for the first time since last year. The 32-year-old wideout missed all of last year but did practice at points during the season. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on their longtime standout, who is set to play the 2020 season on a $17.9MM salary.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Already down rookie safety Grant Delpit for the season, the Browns will be without their other LSU cog in the secondary for an undetermined time frame. Greedy Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury, and new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski has yet to indicate that the first-string cornerback will be able to return soon, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Williams missed four games last season but started all 12 in which he played.
  • The Browns should be expected to explore an Earl Thomas addition, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter), but the team may not be a frontrunner. Cleveland lost Delpit but has offseason acquisitions Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo in the fold.
  • On the subject of Thomas, his subtraction from the Ravens secondary will indeed bump third-year safety DeShon Elliott into the starting lineup. John Harbaugh confirmed the former sixth-round pick will receive the first crack at replacing Thomas alongside Chuck Clark, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This will be an interesting promotion, with Elliott having only played in six games during his two-year career. Elliott landed on Baltimore’s IR in both 2018 and ’19, missing all of his rookie season and the latter portion of last season.
  • The quartet of kickers the Browns worked out last week does not represent an immediate threat to Austin Seibert‘s job. Instead, the team is forming an emergency list due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Of course, other teams can and have adjusted this list. The Patriots signed one of the kickers the Browns previously brought in, Nick Folk, earlier this week. The Browns also worked out Cody Parkey, Kai Forbath and Matthew McCrane.

Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy Doesn’t Want Earl Thomas?

Jerry Jones is still on board, but Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is less-than-enthusiastic about the prospect of signing Earl Thomas, Ed Werder of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears. McCarthy, who places a major emphasis on locker room culture, is concerned about the veteran safety’s fit in Dallas.

Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler, left his past two clubs on bad terms. As one league source told Werder, “Contact anyone you know with the Ravens or the Seahawks and ask if the positives outweigh the negatives.” In Seattle, Thomas literally left the team with an extended middle finger as he was carted off of the field. In Baltimore, Thomas failed to grasp the playbook in his first year and wore out his welcome last week when he got into an altercation with a teammate.

Still, the final decision ultimately lies with Jones, who has made no secret of his fondness for the safety. Thomas has reciprocated, on several occasions through multiple channels. Thomas might not be the prototypical team player, but his potential as a game-changer is undeniable. Thomas has spent the bulk of his career as one of the NFL’s very best safeties, resulting in 713 tackles and 30 interceptions over the course of his career.

For now, the Cowboys are set to start the season with new addition Ha Ha Clinton-DixXavier Woods, and Darian Thompson as the leaders of the group.

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