Ravens Release Earl Thomas, Will Take 8-Figure Cap Hit

Earl-Thomas

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Steelers QB Mason Rudolph is injured as he is tackled by Earl Thomas #29 and Brandon Carr #24 of the Baltimore Ravens on October 6, 2019.

Today the Baltimore Ravens announced that they released safety Earl Thomas in the wake of a practice field punch thrown at teammate Chuck Clark. “We have terminated S Earl Thomas’ contract for personal conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens,” the team said in a terse statement.


Salary Cap Implications

By cutting Thomas just a year into a four-year $55 million contract with $32 million guaranteed, the Ravens will have to absorb a $15 million salary cap hit—$5 million this year and $10 million next year, this based on the $20 million signing bonus Thomas received when he signed the contract. And it could be as much as a $25 million cap charge over the course of the next two years, depending on what happens next.

As noted by Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, “by releasing Thomas for ‘personal conduct that has adversely affected’ the team, the Ravens revealed their intentions not to pay Thomas the $10 million in guaranteed money he’s owed this year.” In that case the NFLPA would almost inevitably file a grievance on Thomas’ behalf, but safe to say it won’t be easy for the Ravens to prove “conduct detrimental.”

Salary cap wise, it’s not unlike what the Pittsburgh Steelers had to deal with in 2019, when Pittsburgh had $21.1 million in dead money on its salary cap in the wake of trading Antonio Brown to the Raiders. Except $10 million—or more—in dead money may be particularly problematic next season, when the salary cap could actually go down to $175 million, as opposed to the originally expected $200 million-plus.


How Thomas’ Release Affects the Ravens on the Field

Of course, Steelers fans won’t be sorry to see Thomas leave the division. He was one of the two Ravens defenders involved in the hit that concussed QB Mason Rudolph at Heinz Field last October. And even though Thomas is on the back side of his career, he remains a play maker, and was the best free safety on Baltimore’s roster.

To be sure, the Ravens are still loaded with talent in the secondary. But there’s isn’t a proven free safety on the Ravens at this time.

DeShon Elliott, a third-year safety who has played in only six career games due to injuries, figures to become the starter. Other possibilities include rookie seventh-round pick Geno Stone, or even cornerback Jimmy Smith, who could see some time at safety this season. There’s also the possibility that the Ravens could sign a veteran free agent; there are a few intriguing players available, including Logan Ryan, who has played for the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.

Last year Thomas started 15 games for the Ravens and was involved in 49 total tackles, including two tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. He also added two interceptions and four passes defensed, plus one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Thomas is a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro, with the All-Pro honors all coming while he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

During this past offseason he was involved in an altercation with his wife, who allegedly held a gun to his head.

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