Six months after the Ravens terminated Earl Thomas III’s contract for what they deemed “personal conduct that has adversely affected” the team, and four months after the veteran safety’s grievance was filed on his behalf by the NFL Players’ Association, there has been no resolution to the dispute.
“That’s ongoing. There are some different moving parts. So, I’ll sort of answer that question like that, and just say that it’s ongoing,” DeCosta said Monday at his season-ending news conference.
The Ravens released Thomas in August, two days after a training camp fight with safety Chuck Clark. Thomas spent just one season in Baltimore after signing a four-year, $55 million deal in March 2019, including $32 million guaranteed.
Thomas was due a guaranteed $10 million in base salary this season before his release. With Thomas’ grievance filed, 40% of the amount claimed in the dispute — in this case, $4 million of the $10 million the Ravens voided — was added to the team’s salary cap figure. If the Ravens win the grievance, the $4 million would be removed from their cap hit. If they lose, the remaining $6 million would count toward it.
A legal win would allow a bit more flexibility in the offseason for the cap-strapped Ravens, with the salary cap potentially dropping to a floor of $175 million as the NFL adjusts to financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are always a lot of different things, and there are all these different elements to an offseason,” DeCosta said. “We don’t even know what the salary cap is going to be yet. It’s hard to build a football team without a salary cap — not knowing what the salary cap is going to be. So, the Earl Thomas situation is just one part of that. But there are a lot of unknowns, and as we begin to get information when checking off all these different boxes, we’ll have a much better idea for how to proceed this offseason.”
The hearing will likely hinge on the Ravens’ case that Thomas “engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged ... to adversely affect or reflect” the team, which in NFL player contracts is grounds for a terminated contract. Former NFL agent Joel Corry wrote for CBS Sports that the “Ravens’ ability to prevail could hinge on whether there is a documented pattern of unacceptable behavior by Thomas where he was either previously fined and/or given warnings.”
Thomas had a heated confrontation with defensive tackle Brandon Williams after a Week 4 loss to the Cleveland Browns last season. He was also late to team meetings, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, and was reportedly fined for his behavior. After the training camp fight with Clark that ultimately led to his release, Thomas also shared team footage of his “mental error” that had led to the blown coverage and encounter with Clark. He later deleted the Instagram video.
Thomas, 31, has not been signed since his release from the Ravens. The release was a rare miss for an organization that prides itself on prudent free-agent signings to complement homegrown talent from the draft, which it believes to be the foundation of a winning team.
“Any time you in work in personnel and scouting, you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to swing and miss,” DeCosta said. “You try to hit more hits, more home runs than you strike out. For every player that we might have missed on, I like to think that we have an Eric Weddle or Calais Campbell or Mark Ingram or somebody like that who comes right away and provides leadership and a foundation for your younger players to emulate.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jonas Shaffer contributed to this article.