After an on field blow up Friday at practice followed by an apology of sorts that included airing practice footage, the Ravens have made the decision to release star safety Earl Thomas.
We have terminated S Earl Thomas’ contract for personal conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 23, 2020
The language in the Ravens tweet is important because it means that they will be releasing him for conduct in an attempt to void the remaining guarantees, which total $10 million, in his contract. As I discussed yesterday the Ravens could get out of Thomas contract if he either willingly missed practice or was suspended for conduct his guaranteed salary would void.
The next step will likely be a grievance by Thomas in an attempt to recover the $10 million salary for the Ravens. Typically cause for a conduct related release requires multiple incidents in the same year and some type of ability to prove that you are not treating this player any different than another.
The situation somewhat mirrors what we saw happen in Oakland last year with Antonio Brown, albeit on a much more accelerated timeline. Brown’s incidents were, however, well documented and he was given multiple warnings and opportunities to comply. Thomas’ incidents seem far less egregious unless the Ravens have simply done an exceptional job of keeping things under wraps. I would lean more toward Thomas side in this instance. Thomas’ contract does contain salary offsets if he signs elsewhere.
The contract overall proved to be a big blunder for the Ravens. They typically don’t make bold moves like they did for Thomas when they very aggressively made an offer that paid him $22 million in the first year of his contract while also guaranteeing him an additional $10 million in the second season. Even if he fails to win his grievance you won’t find many worse returns on investment than $22 million for one year of play.
The Ravens will carry $5 million in dead money this season and $10 million in 2021 for Thomas. Once Thomas files a grievance another $4 million placeholder will be put on the Ravens cap so they will need to set aside that cap space for whenever the grievance is filed. They would receive a credit if they successfully win the grievance or wind up paying him another $10 million and having to account for another $6 million in cap charges if they lose.
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.