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Ravens Free Agency: The Earl Thomas Effect

Baltimore still dealing with uncertainty over grievance.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have been mostly mum about former safety Earl Thomas' ongoing grievance against the team.

General manager Eric DeCosta also deflected questions about how the situation might affect the team's salary cap and the ability to invest in free agents. At the center of the controversy is whether the Ravens have to pay Thomas's $10 million salary for the 2020 season after he was released by the team for throwing a punch at fellow safety Chuck Clark.

If the Ravens win the grievance, the NFL will credit the franchise $5 million in salary cap funds.

"That’s ongoing," DeCosta said. "We have had discussions, and there are a lot of moving arts, but that is ongoing. I shouldn’t say anything about that really, just because there are a lot of different things. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t want to get anybody mad at me: The Players Association [NFLPA], or the [NFL] Management Council, or the agents involved, or the player involved. But these are certainly things that we’ve discussed and talked about, and it’s just an ongoing matter. It’s an in-house thing right now. 

"We shouldn’t comment on it. But it’s definitely something that has been discussed since the end of the season and will continue to be discussed, probably over the next five, six, eight, 10 months, to a year, I would say.”

Baltimore parted ways with Thomas after a heated confrontation with fellow safety Chuck Clark. The exchange began when Clark was not happy about Thomas' positioning during a team drill.

At one point, Thomas raised his fists before he and Clark were separated by teammates and coaches. They continued to argue before Clark left the practice field and went inside the practice facility.

Thomas was sent home following the incident and then he did not suit up the following day. Clark left the field after the exchange but was at the next day's practice.

Thomas shared his version of the incident on Instagram before deleting the post, saying: "Being sent home sucks I can’t take the reps I need to keep momentum [sic] going .. but I can reflect on things and keep working my plan to help the team win...This has been one of of [sic] my best camps crazy a situation like this can through [sic] dirt on it."

Thomas, 31, signed a four-year deal with the Ravens in April 2019. He earned his seventh trip to the Pro Bowl after helping the Ravens finish with an NFL-best 14-2 record in the regular season.

Thomas was often viewed as an aloof teammate and there has been talk that he has been late or missed meetings this season. If that is true, then the Ravens could build a case that his conduct is detrimental to the team and they could void his contract.

In April 2020, Thomas was involved in a domestic incident when his wife, Nina Thomas, allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her husband’s head upon finding him in bed with another woman. She was arrested on a felony charge of burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Earl Thomas was not arrested.

Last year, Thomas got into a heated discussion with defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the training room following a 40-25 loss to the Browns. Williams was inactive because of a knee injury and Thomas questioned his commitment.