The Houston Texans still get credit for recognizing that something is amiss with this 0-3 football team. And now an attempt to get another recognition correct as their flirtation with Earl Thomas is over.
Was it the baggage? The money? Both?
ESPN on Monday reported that Earl Thomas was in Houston, and that he's "likely'' bound to sign a contract with the Texans.
But by Tuesday, an assortment of reports suggested that the visit didn't occur, and by the afternoon, the venerable John McClain reported that Houston is out on the potential acquisition.
Thomas, long recognized as a team leader and future Hall of Famer, saw much of that fade in his final year in Seattle and in his single season in Baltimore, after which he was essentially invited to leave this summer.
Thomas's history of football heroics as a member of the Seattle Seahawks is legendary stuff, sidelined when his money dispute with the club caused him to trot into the home-team locker room at AT&T Stadium, openly flaunting his desire to somehow, someday, join his home-state Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas, of course, flirted with the idea multiple times, with 2018 trade proposals and then 2019 touch-base talks, before the Ravens blew Thomas away with the four-year, $55-million deal with $32 million guaranteed. (Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Tuesday made some more general noise about the idea.)
The Texans never flirted much; our assessment is that they are acutely aware of the baggage the Texas native Thomas now carries—behavioral baggage that in theory he's addressed in recent weeks as the seven-time Pro Bowler made efforts to re-enter the NFL.
And maybe the baggage was judged to be too heavy. On the personal side: Thomas’s wife Nina was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at Thomas on the early morning of April 13. Nina had tracked down Thomas at a short-term rental home in Austin, where she found the safety and his brother, Seth, in bed with two women, according to a police affidavit. Thomas told the police he had been “romantically involved” with one of the women in bed for months.
On the football side: Thomas was sent home from Ravens training camp following an altercation with fellow safety Chuck Clark, which started with Clark barking at Thomas for blowing a coverage, turned to near-fisticuffs, and then was accelerated when Thomas posted since-removed video of the play meant to clear his name.
But ... not many people argue against Thomas as a player.
There is the issue of his grievance with Baltimore, which may end up getting him paid $10 million - with his new team's salary involved in an off-set. (In other words, the Texans could offer him a portion of $10 million with him planning to get the rest from Baltimore.
What did the Texans dislike about him a year ago? As our Sports Illustrated colleague on the Ravens beat, Todd Karpovich, notes, "Thomas is 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.''
There are those who care personally about Thomas, the University of Texas product, who believe his erratic behavior suggests he needs help. He's slid from "colorful'' to "controversial'' and while he's just 31, and therefore theoretically completely capable of helping the Texans or any future team.
There are those who care about Earl Thomas who believe he needs guidance in helping himself.
Maybe he's still getting that. Houston QB Deshaun Watson (with whom Thomas shares an agent, the Texas-based David Mulugheta, who deserves credit for building a familial bond with his players) is a fan and a friend. Watson could've helped make this work.
But the 0-3 Texans - while recognizing they need help - will be seeking that elsewhere.