After being released by the Baltimore Ravens, it is fair to say Earl Thomas climbs to the top of the list as the NFL’s best free agent. Thomas was released the day after he was sent home after an altercation with teammate Chuck Clark during training camp. Thomas hasn’t had the cleanest slate in recent years. However, his resume speaks for himself and makes him an extremely valuable free agent.
Thomas has been to seven Pro Bowls and been a five Time All-Pro. He was a part of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks from 2013-14. Thomas was also voted to the 2010s All-Decade team. Last season had 49 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defended, and a forced fumble in 15 games.
Here are some teams who could potentially sign Thomas within the next couple of days.
San Fransisco 49ers
Contract: 2 years $17 Million
After he announced Thomas’ release NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted two teams to look out for that could be interested in signing Thomas. The San Fransisco 49ers could be one of those teams. They were already one of the teams that were trying to land Jamal Adams from the Jets a few weeks ago.
A few other teams to watch for #Ravens S Earl Thomas upon him being released: The #49ers and #Texans. They should be among those inquiring, along with the #Cowboys. Thomas, of course, will have a market.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 23, 2020
Thomas could be intrigued by the idea of reuniting with long time teammate and other Legion of Boom member Richard Sherman. Thomas would also have familiarity with the defense because 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was a defensive coach on the Seahawks during Thomas’ time there.
Though the 49ers have Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward under long term contracts, they are the weakest position group on the 49ers roster. Having a better secondary could have been the difference between the 49ers winning and losing the Super Bowl last year. Adding Thomas would solidify their secondary and confirm that the 49ers will be in the Super Bowl picture next season.
The 49ers only have $12.7 Million in cap space, so in order for this to happen Thomas would need to take a discount in order to sign with them. However after being cut this late before the season and the reason why he was cut, Thomas may have to take a lot less than what he is worth to land on the team he wants to play for.
Contract: 1 year $12 Million
The other team Ian Rapoport mentioned in his tweet that could be interested in Thomas’ services is the Houston Texans. Thomas has expressed in the past that he has wanted to return to Texas to play football. He is from Texas and he played college at Texas. Though he wanted to play for the other team from the Lone star state last offseason, he might end up with the Texans.
The Texans secondary has a lot of young players with potential, but overall none of them have really become impact players besides Justin Reid. Opposite Reid the Texans have Eric Murray, who was a bellow average starter for the Cleveland Browns last season. Thomas would be a major upgrade over Murray and would give the Texans an elite safety duo. Having Reid and Thomas playing deep would help their young cornerbacks a lot.
Thomas may not have to choose between winning or receiving a fair contract since the Texans will be competing for the playoffs and have enough cap room to sign Thomas for his market price. The only downside is the Texans may not feel comfortable committing a long term contract to Thomas because they need to give Laremy Tunsil and Deshaun Watson long term extensions.
Contract: 2 year $22 Million
Whenever a superstar safety becomes available the Dallas Cowboys are always in the conversation to pick them up. The Cowboys missed out on Thomas last offseason and Jamal Adams a few weeks ago. But recently the Cowboys cut Gerald McCoy after he sustained a knee injury and converted Tyron Smiths $8.9 Million salary into a signing bonus. This gives Big D a total of $14.8 Million in salary cap space. Though these moves were likely done to prep for Dak Prescott‘s contract extension past this season, they could use it to bring in a player that fills a major need that they have had for too long.
The Cowboys did sign former Pro Bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who is expected to start for them. However Dallas would not mind pairing Thomas with Clinton-Dix or Xavier Woods. After losing Byron Jones in free agency Dallas’ secondary looks very young and inexperienced. A veteran like Thomas can push them to play at a high level.
Bringing in a veteran like Thomas on a two year deal could push Dallas to the next level making them Super Bowl contenders, but could further complicate Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys executives have to make a tough decision soon that could impact the teams short and long term future.
New England Patriots
Contract: 1 year $12 Million
Whenever a troubled veteran becomes available, especially one with a fantastic resume, the New England Patriots are always a threat to grab them. Though this year the Patriots may not be considered the Super Bowl contenders they usually are, playing for New England and a defensive mastermind like Bill Belichick may be what Earl Thomas could need at this point of his career.
After the multiple opt outs by the New England Patriots players the team has $35 Million in salary cap space which is the second most in the league. Two of those opt outs were Donta Hightower and Patrick Chung. Both are great players and starters for the Patriots defense. Signing a player like Thomas can soften the blow of losing those players. Though Thomas is primarily seen as a free safety, it wouldn’t be a crazy transition for him to switch over to strong safety to play next to Devin McCourty who also plays free safety. Though the Patriots have Kyle Dugger as well, this gives Dugger more time to learn the playbook and figure out his role. Also the Patriots have played with a lot of three safety sets over recent years, so they can find playing time for all three safeties. Also Belichick could experiment with playing Thomas at Nickel-Linebacker. Basically playing him at middle linebacker to help fill the void left by Hightower as well.
Though Thomas and the Patriots may want to be in each others long term future they may decide on a short term one, because of the Patriots priorities next offseason. Both Joe Thuney and David Andrews are free agents next year and the Patriots will likely want to keep them in the building long term. The Patriots may want to find their quarterback of the future next offseason in free agency. Dak Prescott would be a perfect fit for Josh McDaniels offense or they could just extend Cam Newton if he preforms well. Once the Patriots offseason plans are more clear they could possibly work on an extension for Thomas.
Contract: 3 years $37.5 Million
If Thomas really wants to get back at the Baltimore Ravens, he could definitely sign with division rival Cleveland Browns. The Browns have arguably the worst group of safeties in the league. Its not even that they are bad players but more unproven. The Browns will be rotating between Andrew Sendejo, former first round pick Karl Joseph, and rookie second round pick Grant Delpit. Sendejo was an established starter at one point of his career, Joseph was a promising first round pick who got replaced in the starting lineup who is trying to restart his career, and Delpit has the potential to be a star but he could also flop like he did during his last season in college.
The Cleveland Browns have the most remaining salary cap space with $40 Million, so Thomas’ contract really should not be a concern for the Browns. They could afford to pay Thomas the long term contract his play deserves. They may have to pay Thomas the most considering they are not a guaranteed playoff contender. But adding Thomas could their defense could be enough to get them there. Their defense could be among the best in the league with superstars like Myles Garrett to go along with Thomas. They also have a lot of young talented players like Mack Wilson, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and Larry Ogunjobi along their defense.
The Browns may not be the most obvious landing spot for Thomas, but after evaluating his option he might just settle with the division rival of the team who just cut him because Thomas knows how to hold a grudge. Also because they can pay him the most.