Two months after the Ravens terminated Earl Thomas III’s contract over what they called “personal conduct that has adversely affected” the team, the Pro Bowl safety’s long-awaited grievance has been filed on his behalf by the NFL Players Association, according to reports.
The former Texas star was due a guaranteed $10 million in base salary this season before his Aug. 23 release; Oct. 12 marked 50 days since that date, the deadline by which players must file a grievance after a dispute arises.
With Thomas’ grievance filed, 40% of the amount claimed in the dispute – in this case, $4 million of the $10 million the Ravens voided – will be added to the team’s salary cap figure, reducing their space from about $8.1 million to $4.1 million. 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.
It’s unclear when the hearing will be held; Thomas’ cap hit won’t change any further until the grievance is resolved, either in a hearing or with a settlement. The NFLPA normally represents players in their grievances and, according to its website, is successful in “considerably more than half of the cases.”
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 safety Chuck 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.
After a legendary career with the Seattle Seahawks soured during the 2018 season, Thomas signed a four-year, $55 million deal with the Ravens in March 2019, including $32 million guaranteed. With his bonus proration, Thomas will count at least $5 million against the Ravens’ cap this year and at least $10 million next year, when the NFL’s cap could fall from $198.2 million to $175 million because of the coronavirus pandemic’s financial impact.
According to the NFL Network, Thomas’ Ravens contract contains offset language, meaning whatever he earns on his next contract would be deducted from his $10 million in guaranteed salary. But despite making the Pro Bowl in his lone season in Baltimore, the 31-year-old Thomas remains unsigned.