Shortly before the sun hit it’s highest point above Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens released safety extraordinaire, Earl Thomas. As expected, social media channels exploded into a concussive force full of speculation, desire, and disdain for the troubled safety now looking for a new squad as his old one continues it’s quest for a title without him.
One team which had voices on both ends of the sign-him and don’t-sign-him aisles was of course, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And why not?
Tampa Bay just signed aging great, Tom Brady. Then they traded for his at-the-time-retired former teammate, Rob Gronkowski. The theme of 2020 is, the Bucs are all in on winning it all, now. Not next year, not in five years. Now.
So, why not go get a suddenly free All-Pro caliber safety like Thomas?
Well, for one, the Bucs have almost no money. But wait, if the Bucs were to bring in Thomas it would certainly be at the expense of another member of their secondary. In my mind’s eye, that member is Justin Evans. After the dead money the Jason Licht would carry for releasing the seemingly forever injured Evans, Tampa nets a gain of $1.2M before considering the salary of the lower Buc that moves into the Top-51. So, somewhere around $1M. Not nearly enough to sign Thomas, right?
Wrong. If Thomas is less worried about money, anyway.
Not saying it would happen, but if Thomas was willing to take vet minimum to land on a contender, then the Bucs certainly make sense for him. He’s already pocketed $5M by way of signing bonus from the Ravens. Reports are the team will go after his guaranteed money from this year, but if he gets to keep it, Thomas is earning over $10M no matter what happens.
So, signing the vet minimum one-year deal becomes about winning a ring - hello, revenge! - and not making money, since he’s already doing that.
Of course, Thomas could also think he might keep his Baltimore money and get even more money on top of it all, so that wouldn’t fit in line with what the Bucs have to offer.
Then there’s the other side, and the title of this writing: Should the Buccaneers consider signing Earl Thomas?
On one hand, yes. The team has no clear answer as to who the stud is in their defensive backfield. Plenty of young talent, but no clear answer as to who the best two are. Signing Thomas answers one of those questions. Also, he has experience and a reputation as one of the best - if not, the best - safeties in the league. Learning by watching him is something which could help the younger safeties develop at an accelerated rate.
But what about the locker room? Well, therein lies the rub, and is the reason Thomas is a free-agent in the first place. From what we can tell Thomas is no leader. In fact, he may very well be about as toxic as they come?
Why else would the Ravens release him risking $15M in dead cap space when they could have at least held him as a trade chip for weeks before the regular season began? Cam Newton once called Gerald McCoy one team’s trash, and another team’s treasure. I think he meant it as a compliment.
In this case, the Ravens’ trash very well might be someone else’s - well - trash.
On Friday, Thomas got into a fight with Chuck Clark. Not only a teammate of Thomas’ but a fellow safety.
This is what led to the release. But there’s no way this was all there was to contribute, right? Right.
A Baltimore Sun article chronicled what led to Thomas’ decline with the Ravens, and it starts in Seattle. Weird.
Before moving to Baltimore, Thomas was in a heated relationship with his then team, the Seattle Seahawks. In his final season with the team, and playing without a contract extending beyond that season, Thomas broke his leg against the Arizona Cardinals. As he’s carted off the field, he tells his soon to be former team they’re number one. If you saw the clip on television his hand likely looked blurry, and yes it was done on purpose.
This led to the Ravens signing Thomas to a four-year contract in March of 2019. At the time, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said of Thomas,
“I think Earl is a playmaker, and there’s no greater playmaker in the NFL at safety than Ed (Reed). Now, they have maybe different styles in some respects, but both guys can win a game for you. Just going back to Earl coming out [of college], he was one of the fastest, most explosive safeties we’ve seen. His ball skills, the combination of that and his aggressiveness and his ability to play multiple spots make him a unique player.”
It didn’t take long for Thomas and his new teammates to butt heads, as it was reported in September he and defensive tackle Brandon Williams had a “heated talk” following their loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 of the 2019 season.
In the playoffs, Thomas was criticized for not making more of an effort to tackle Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. The Titans would go on to win the game, ending Baltimore’s season.
Then, this May it was reported Thomas’ wife held him at gunpoint after she caught him cheating on her. A source told the Baltimore Sun the team was then looking into whether or not the incident violated his contract with the team. The source also referenced multiple occasions in the 2019 season where Thomas would go off-script from the game plan and struggled getting on board with the Ravens’ defense, causing tension to rise and frustration within the unit.
Finally, there was the fight with Clark this past week, which reportedly stemmed from another mistake Thomas made during practice. According to the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the incident,
“Clark confronted Thomas on the sideline late in Friday’s practice after a coverage breakdown in 11-on-11 action. Thomas put up his fists, and the players had to be separated by teammates. After Clark continued arguing with Thomas a couple of minutes later, he had to be held back until teammates led him away from the practice fields and to the team facility...About 90 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s practice, Thomas shared practice footage on his Instagram account of the play that he said sparked the confrontation with Clark, calling it a “mental error on my part.” After the long completion, Clark can be seen throwing his helmet to the ground.”
Earl Thomas shared this video of the practice rep that ignited everything on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/GfYzvRFCwN— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) August 22, 2020
Is all of the baggage worth the talent Thomas brings to the field? In his 10-years in the NFL, Thomas has made seven Pro Bowls and has been a First-Team All-Pro three times. He’s been to, and won, the Super Bowl.
He’s certainly talented, but is known for marching to the beat of his own drum, and has an up and down relationship with seemingly everyone he knows.
So the question, Bucs Nation, is: Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Earl Thomas?
Should the Buccaneers sign Earl Thomas?
This poll is closed
Yes, without a doubt!
For vet minimum only!
Are you out of your mind!?
Check out what James Yarcho and I think about the topic, on Monday’s episode of the Locked On Bucs Podcast!