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.
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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According to the NFL’s Ian Rapoport, Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks is reportedly unhappy with his contract and considering the option of holding out in order to get a raise. Chancellor had signed a $7 million per year contract extension in 2013 and this is technically just the second year of the four year extension, which runs through 2017. Chancellor is the second player unhappy with his contract in Seattle (Michael Bennett is the other) and the third looking for a raise (along with Russell Wilson). Continue reading Seahawks Kam Chancellor a Possible Holdout? »
While we don’t yet have the particulars of the four year, $40 million contract extension signed by Earl Thomas I thought it was worth discussing the potential impact we are seeing on the Safety market.
At an annual value of $10 million a season, Thomas becomes the third highest paid defensive back in the NFL, behind only Darrelle Revis ($16 million, but in reality a $12 million contract) and Brandon Carr ($10.02 million). I think in light of that, the extension for Thomas is really beginning to drive home the fact that the Safety is slowing becoming as valuable to the NFL franchise as the Cornerback, something that never really existed in the past as there was a clear distinction between the two positions in terms of salary.
Thomas and fellow Safety Jairus Byrd, who signed a contract worth $9 million a season this offseason with the Saints, represent two of the largest contracts for DB’s awarded this offseason. The top six would be Revis, Thomas, Sam Shields ($9.75 million), Aqib Talib ($9.5 million), Byrd and Vontae Davis ($9 million).
What is even more interesting is the guaranteed structures of the contracts, basically a nod to the fact that teams are considering the Safety a less risky investment than the Cornerback. While we don’t know the true guarantee of Thomas’ contract (it was reported at over $27 million, but that likely includes injury only guarantees), it should be at the top of the position. The current top true guarantees for veteran safeties are held by Eric Weddle ($19 million), DaShon Goldson ($18 million), and Byrd (18.3 million).
The only veteran corners with a larger guarantee are Brandon Carr of the Cowboys with over $25 million in full guarantees and Jonathan Joseph of the Texans with over $23 million. The most recent high water marks for guarantees at the position are Brent Grimes ($16 million), Davis ($15 million), and Shields ($12.5 million). I think we could be entering a period where a standout Safety may be considered more valuable relative to his position than a standout corner. That can all change when Richard Sherman signs a contract extension, but for now the Safety is jumping up in NFL value.