You may have read that a couple of days ago former Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Matthew Thomas chose to sign a Reserve/Future contract with the Baltimore Ravens after finishing the regular season on the Steelers’ practice squad.
The undrafted rookie originally made the 53-man roster and spent most of the season there, but was inactive for one game and then released the following week to make room for outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. Adeniyi was also an undrafted rookie who made the initial 53-man roster but was prompted moved to the Reserve/Injured List.
It’s hard to call a rookie season for an undrafted player a disappointment, but the way that he got talked up throughout the offseason and into the preseason, even being discussed as an option for playing time in the regular season, leaves one wondering what happened. I’m not sure we will find out.
First of all, the signing is noteworthy for another reason. This is the first season in which teams whose seasons have not yet completed are permitted to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts after the regular season ends. In other words, had this been last season, the Ravens would not have been able to sign him until they are eliminated from the postseason or win the Super Bowl.
But he did sign with the Ravens, and why? Is it because the Steelers chose not to extend him an offer? They do not sign every single practice squad player to a Reserve/Future contract every year. Or is it because he wanted to pursue an opportunity with another team?
After he was initially released and re-signed to the practice squad, Thomas acknowledged that he considered his options that he might have with other teams. Now that the Steelers’ season is over, perhaps that is exactly what he chose to do.
He also talked about the number of things that his coaches wanted him to work on and seemed to imply that they were disappointed with his development, which would gel with the fact that he eventually was inactive for the game in Denver and then was the low man on the totem pole for release when a roster spot was needed. He was a special teams contributor.
It was probably foolhardy to have high hopes of Thomas becoming a savior at the inside linebackers position—and truth be told, L.J. Fort probably did exactly what many were hoping that Thomas would be able to do—but the fact remains that the position still needs to be addressed.
At least for the immediate future, Thomas will not be in the cards for the position in Pittsburgh in 2019, though you never know how things might work out. Players cycle back eventually sometimes, even in Pittsburgh.