The Earl Thomas experience is over in Baltimore.
Thomas had a solid first season in Baltimore. However, his performances split fans given the hype that surrounded his arrival from Seattle. His reputation wasn’t helped by being savagely handed off in the back by Derrick Henry as the Ravens went out in the divisional round with a whimper.
Last Friday saw the latest event in Earl Thomas’ controversial offseason after punching teammate Chuck Clark. It followed an incident in May where Thomas had been held at gunpoint by his wife, who was arrested. While Thomas was the victim here, the circumstances around it raised further character concerns.
The Ravens can’t act surprised though. There was a reason that Earl Thomas was available as a free agent last year. He had already shown character concerns. Thomas fell out with Seattle’s top brass, including a holdout and flipping the bird to Pete Carroll as he was carted off with a broken leg.
In 2019, Thomas had 49 tackles. That was his lowest total, beaten only by 2018, when he played four games, and 2016, when he played 11. It’s by far the fewest tackles per game, over the 15 games he played. PFF’s AV rating gave Thomas a 7, his lowest rating bar the injury-ravaged seasons mentioned above, since his rookie year in 2010.
The Ravens terminated Earl Thomas’ contract due to conduct detrimental. That allows the team to legally pursue his salary. Even if unsuccessful the cut clears $11M in salary for 2021 and $12M in 2022, with $10M in dead cap over the two years. All of Thomas’ $15M salary would be dead money if the conduct detrimental process fails.
What are the Ravens options?
Ultimately, the Ravens are losing a star on the defensive backend. Third year DeShon Elliot has shown promise and is now expected to start. Elliot joins a starstudded secondary alongside Chuck Clark, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and talented but injury-prone Tavon Young. However the Ravens are now very bare at Safety. Tony Jefferson is still available and could come back. However he may be unwilling to be a rotational piece having been replaced by Clark when injured. Brandon Carr is also still available having been a free agent since the Ravens didn’t pick his option up in March.
While Thomas’ ability is unquestioned and will be missed at Owings Mills, team chemistry appears to be the reason it was the last straw. The Ravens are in Super Bowl or bust mode. The team can’t afford to carry a superstar who reportedly missed meetings last year before fighting colleagues on the practice field. The Ravens chose the cohesive unit over the talented veteran. While unrelated, Thursday night’s statement regarding police violence hints at a group that are a cohesive, unified group.
Earl Thomas’ Baltimore departure came quickly but the warning signs were clearly there for a while internally. But the Ravens are chasing a third ring and can’t afford to carry anybody, especially if they are uncooperative. Now there is a team gelling together and, with one bloated salary off the books for next year at the latest, a little extra space to pay Lamar Jackson, not to mention a supporting cast around him.
Credit: USA Today