Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones was asked amid swirling rumors whether the team has interest in bringing aboard Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas. He didn’t say yes. And he didn’t say no. He didn’t mention Thomas by name, but he didn’t mention Everson Griffen by name, either, and look how that turned out.
What the ever-cryptic Jones did reference is the parallel between the two star talents.
“Just as we didn’t talk about Everson until it was done. We found out that works much better for us,” he said Monday on 105.3 The Fan. “As I said, we’re in it 365 days a year and we’re always looking to get better. Obviously, it’s not very productive for us to talk about anything that might be in the works because it can always work against you.”
Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher reported that Stephen and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones are conducting a background check of sorts on Thomas, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Speaking earlier in the day, Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy admitted he’s discussed the three-time All-Pro with the Joneses and personnel boss Will McClay. McCarthy, however, revealed a diverging agenda in stating “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. So I have nothing really to report,” McCarthy added, via NFL.com.
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Jones does not appear to share McCarthy’s enthusiasm — at least at safety. He correctly noted the position has “the least amount of resources committed” to it, compared to other roster areas.
The tentative starters are 2019 incumbent Xavier Woods ($2.133 base salary) and 2020 newbie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ($2.250 million), the former Packer who arrived via free agency. Their direct backups are veteran Darian Thompson ($1 million) and sophomore Donovan Wilson ($675,000).
The Cowboys did not select a pure safety in this year’s draft, even after losing starter Jeff Heath, opting instead for a pair of cornerbacks in second-rounder Trevon Diggs and fourth-rounder Reggie Robinson.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s got the least amount of resources committed to it is the safety position,” Jones said of Dallas’ connection to Thomas. “We don’t really have any high draft picks or any high paid players. Certainly, we got to continue to work in that area and that’s what we’ll do.”
Thomas, 31, made 47 tackles, four pass breakups, two interceptions, and two sacks in his one-and-done Ravens stint. Proving he remains a playmaker, the Texas native, if signed, likely would relegate Clinton-Dix to the bench. Or the unemployment line.
There’s no doubt Thomas would upgrade a Cowboys secondary that was as lethal as a water pistol in 2019. There is doubt as to whether his toxicity — the guy who flipped off his coaches and was held at gunpoint by his wife also punched a teammate — would poison the culture instilled by McCarthy during his first year on the job.
“Everything is looked at at the end of the day,” McCarthy said Monday, per NFL.com. “I think the most important question you need to ask at the end of the day is how does the player fit into the locker room? To me, that’s usually the huge determining factor if it happens or it doesn’t happen. Just like anything in this business, there has to be a mutual understanding to bring those things together. At the end of the day, as the head coach, my focus is on our current locker room.”
The Cowboys demonstrated with their pickup of Aldon Smith this offseason (not to mention their unwavering support of Randy Gregory) that they’re unafraid to take on character risks. Talent always wins out to Jerry Jones, whose arm is easily twisted.
But this might be a rare instance where Jones exercises impulse control. By signing Thomas, he’d run the risk of upsetting the apple cart and torpedoing the club’s Super Bowl aspirations. Jones simply cannot undercut his coaching staff if McCarthy believes Thomas is a poor fit, and that goes beyond the field.
“Whenever we evaluate a player we look at the full body of work. … Whether it’s medical. Whether it’s chemistry and culture on our football team. Off the field, on the field. And then the tape, how has that player played as of late. It all goes into the equation, into the mix into how you ultimately decide do you want to go after that player,” Stephen Jones said on the K&C Masterpiece, per Radio.com. “If so, what are you willing to do in terms of the resources, the money. How is it going to help us win?”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL