Given the fact that he signed the second-biggest contract for a player at his position in NFL history, and the franchise’s propensity to greatly value the defensive side of the ball, the Baltimore Ravens’ acquisition of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas this offseason seems not to be getting the attention that it ought to be—or so argues one Ravens beat writer. And I’m not sure he’s wrong.
Thomas is pretty much hands down one of the two or three best safeties of the past however many years, and may fall behind only Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed in terms of the position since the beginning of the current millennium, depending on whom you ask and on what day.
But there are at least a few reasons I can come up with as to why this move isn’t being lauded more for the significant signing that it is.
For one thing, his signing doesn’t move the needle that much in terms of talent. He is replacing Eric Weddle, who had some excellent seasons with the Ravens, even if he didn’t have the splash plays a year ago. So they are moving from a strength position to a strength position. Even if it proves to be an upgrade, it’s not going to be transformative. The secondary was already very good.
Another reason it’s being overlooked is because Thomas was the only real major addition to a defensive unit that suffered some pretty serious blows in free agency, none bigger than the failure to retain Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. They also lost some pass rushers and tried to piece the rotation back together by returning to Pernell McPhee and signing Shane Ray. The upgrade at safety is less significant than the downgrade at inside linebacker, and perhaps on the edge as well.
Then there’s the fact that, for once, most of the attention in Baltimore is on the offensive side of the ball. Not just because they are entering a new era with Lamar Jackson as the full-time starting quarterback, who brings a dimension that few quarterbacks have before, they also have been investing the resources there.
In 2018, the Ravens used first- and third-round picks on tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. Earlier this year, they used first- and third-round picks on wide receiver Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. And running back Mark Ingram was the other major free agent addition as he is set to pair with Gus Edwards.
One last reason Thomas isn’t getting the attention he probably should is the fact that he hasn’t been in the public eye for a while. Remember, he broke his leg in Week Four last year. He’s on the field practicing and fully healthy now, but the combination of a lack of recent exposure and the fact that he’s coming off an injury may temper some enthusiasm over him. That is, until he starts making a difference on the field.