While the Baltimore Ravens are known for playing the compensatory formula, they are also not shy about signing big free agents when necessary—particularly when those free agents are one the street after having been cut by their former teams.
The safety position is one that they have long coveted, as we saw once again this offseason when they went all in to sign Marcus Williams from the New Orleans Saints to a huge contract. But it wasn’t so long ago that they signed former All-Pro Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas to a huge contract, as well.
That situation could have gone better. Thomas, who recently announced that he would like to resume his career at 33 after last playing in 2019, signed a four-year, $55 million deal with the Ravens that year. He was cut in August of 2020 after getting into a fight with fellow safety Chuck Clark and throwing a punch. Since then, his reputation was torpedoed, with a litany of allegations accusing him of being a bad teammate and an uncoachable player. He filed a grievance against the Ravens for his termination, and as Pro Football Talk reminds us, that grievance is still pending to this day, years later.
The problem is, Thomas was reportedly owed $10 million in guaranteed base salary for the 2020 season at the time that he was released—and the Ravens never paid him that. As Florio explains, Baltimore is banking on the notion that Thomas violated the terms of his contract, which voided his guarantee:
Although the term “fully-guaranteed” gets commonly used when assessing new contracts, the more accurate term is “guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap.” Baltimore’s position is that the money is not guaranteed against a termination based on personal conduct that has adversely affected the team.
He goes on to say that he has been told by a source that the grievance indeed remains unresolved here in 2022 as Thomas beings to seek employment, himself or his agent having evidently fed that information to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who made a tweet about it.
Florio notes that a settlement remains a possibility between the two parties, but should the Ravens ultimately win the grievance, and have it determined that they indeed do not owe him the $10 million that was guaranteed to him “for skill, injury, and cap”, then it “will give other teams a roadmap for potentially getting around otherwise guaranteed money, if/when a player does something that justifies a finding that he engaged in personal conduct that adversely affected the team”.
Getting into a fistfight with a teammate could certainly be construed as adversely affecting the team; and surely the Ravens did not reach the decision to release a player like Thomas so lightly. It left them in a bad spot on the field, for one thing.
Meanwhile, Thomas is hoping that enough time has passed for people—both fans and those in the league—to have forgotten about his prior reputation, and, indeed, why nobody signed him after the Ravens released him in August of 2020, even though he was a seven-time Pro Bowler. Surely somebody somewhere could have used a safety at the time.