Coach Mike McCarthy said the Cowboys have had conversations regarding Thomas since Thomas’ release, and would not elaborate on the level of Dallas’ interest.
“We’re very confident in where we are as far as the 80-man roster. As far as any prospect that’s available, those are more conversations for Jerry [Jones], Stephen [Jones] and Will McClay, as far as looking at that situation,” McCarthy said Monday, deferring to the team’s front office. “So I have nothing, really, to report.”
The link between the Cowboys and Thomas started in 2017, when the former University of Texas star played for the Seattle Seahawks. After a Week 16 game, Thomas walked arm-in-arm with Jason Garrett into the Cowboys’ locker room, telling the then-coach to “come get me.”
In 2018, the Cowboys made a trade offer to the Seahawks that was rebuffed. And when Thomas became a free agent last year, there were talks between the Cowboys and Thomas’ camp, but nothing that would have come close to the $32 million the seven-time Pro Bowl safety would receive from the Ravens.
And now this. The Ravens released Thomas for “conduct that has adversely affected” the team. The move was described that way so Baltimore could recoup Thomas’ guaranteed $10 million base salary after he got into a practice altercation with teammate Chuck Clark. This was the second exchange with a teammate for Thomas, who confronted nose tackle Brandon Williams 11 months ago. Thomas also missed or was late to several meetings throughout his 17 months in Baltimore, a source told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
So how important is camaraderie and chemistry to McCarthy?
“Everything’s looked at, and at the end of the day I think the most important question you need to ask is: How does a player fit into the locker room? Because to me, that’s usually a huge determining factor on if it happens or if it doesn’t happen, too,” McCarthy said. “And just like anything in this business, there has to be a mutual, you know, understanding to bring those things together. At the end of the day, as the head coach, my focus is on our current locker room.”
Once Thomas was released from the Ravens, he was almost immediately linked with the Cowboys. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter called Dallas the favorite to land the three-time All-Pro. Considering the ties that bind the Cowboys and Thomas, it is worth examining the team’s current situation and whether the veteran safety is a natural fit.
If the Cowboys sign Thomas, then Clinton-Dix, who received $2.25 million guaranteed in the one-year deal he signed as a free agent, could be the odd man out at the position. Clinton-Dix has been splitting time in recent days with Darian Thompson.
The Cowboys had seven interceptions on defense last season, tied for the fewest in the NFL and also tied for the fewest in franchise history. Thomas, 31, had two interceptions with Baltimore last season and has 30 in his career, but there has to be a realization that he is not the same player who played for the Super Bowl-winning “Legion of Boom” in Seattle. According to two personnel executives with other teams, Thomas did not look like a willing tackler and was beaten more in coverage during his one season with the Ravens.
Then there is the issue of salary. What does Thomas want? Will he accept a team-friendly deal, as the other former first-rounders did to join the Cowboys? If he does not receive the $10 million from the Ravens that he would get from filing and winning a grievance, would he want to be made whole financially?
Stephen A. Smith wants Earl Thomas to get paid the $10 million he is owed this season by the Ravens.
The Cowboys gained $3.25 million in salary-cap space last week when they released McCoy, who suffered a quadriceps tear during the team’s first padded practice. Dallas added $7 million in cap space by restructuring the contract of left tackle Tyron Smith, but that is more of a coincidence of timing than a push for Thomas.
The Cowboys talked about reworking Smith’s contract for weeks and would have had no way of knowing Thomas would get into an altercation with a teammate at practice that would lead to his release. The restructuring of Smith’s deal was mostly about carrying over money to 2021, since the league’s salary cap is expected to be reduced next year because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
While the Cowboys hope to sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term deal, they still need to prepare for the possibility of using the franchise tag on him again, which would cost $37.7 million.
As the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, Jerry Jones has always been infatuated by the big names in the game, but in recent years, Dallas has not been swayed by veterans’ résumés. If Thomas’ former position coach in Seattle, Kris Richard, had remained with the Cowboys and Dallas employed a Seahawks-like defensive scheme, then maybe it would be an easier sell to Jones.
But Seattle and Baltimore, two of the more stable franchises in the NFL, walked away from Thomas.
Thomas and the Cowboys have danced apart for years, but will they finally get on the floor together?
There’s a lot to consider.