Life in the NFL as a Super Bowl contender isn’t without its perils.
One minute, you’re all the talk of the football experts, the team to beat in the AFC—or at least the AFC North. The next minute, the name of your former Pro Bowl free safety immediately pops up the second some idiot writer in Crafton, Pa. starts typing “Earl” in the Google search engine.
The Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC—or at least the AFC North. Earl Thomas III is their former Pro Bowl safety, and I’m that idiot writer in Crafton, Pa.
Oh yeah, and a former sixth-round pick named DeShon Elliott is Baltimore’s new starting free safety.
Why did this all happen? Because the Ravens had to release Thomas over the weekend. Why? Because he’s a bird-flipping, orgy-having, teammate-punching pill of a human being. Right, but isn’t he also so darn talented? Of course, but he’s not talented enough that his teammates in Baltimore—specifically, the Leadership Council (whatever that means)—wanted him around any longer. Apparently, the punching of a teammate at training camp practice—namely, strong safety Chuck Clark last Friday—was such a heavy straw, the guys in the locker room simply did not want to deal with Thomas anymore.
It takes a lot for teammates to tell their bosses they can’t work with such a talented person as Thomas, a man who’s been to one less Pro Bowl than Troy Polamalu, a First-Ballot Hall of Fame strong safety, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as far as I know, Polamalu wasn’t habitually late to team meetings. Also, if word got out that Polamalu ever flipped off either of his head coaches with the Steelers—Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin—(something Thomas did to Pete Carroll while playing for the Seahawks)—I would be shocked. As for any orgies before, during or after Polamalu’s career? Let’s just say that would screw up my entire belief system—in all things Troy Polamalu.
You know what former Steelers player has shown a tendency to give people of authority the middle finger, punch teammates out, habitually show up late to team meetings and I assume engage in orgies? Receiver Antonio Brown. Not long ago, Brown was at the very top of his game with the Steelers, and it looked like he would spend many more seasons trying his best to help lead them to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to most people outside of Pittsburgh’s locker room, Brown was the proverbial handful. OK, we knew that, we just didn’t know how heavy and awkward Brown was for his teammates to carry around each and every day he wasn’t on a football field being the best receiver in the business.
Once he got too heavy and too awkward, which was not long after he reportedly had it out with Ben Roethlisberger at practice and then left at halftime of the 2018 regular season finale he was inactive for, Pittsburgh had no choice but to ship him off to the Raiders in-exchange for third and fifth-round draft choices.
That move—along with the injury to Roethlisberger’s right elbow—left the Steelers a shell of their former offensive selves in 2019. But what could they do? There wasn’t enough cap space to bring in an adequate replacement, not unless you considered Donte Moncrief to be an adequate replacement—and he so wasn’t.
Now what are the Ravens going to do? Is Elliot the answer for them at free safety? It doesn’t feel like he is. But Thomas’ cap hit is $15 million, according to Spotrac. They literally just signed the guy last season, and all he did was stick them with $15 million in credit card debt. Maybe they will go out and acquire another expensive free safety, but since they’re cap space is roughly $4.2 million—again, according to Spotrac—probably not.
Hey, the Steelers have been there. They know what it’s like to have one of the best in the world at his position one minute, and a PR nightmare the next.
Will the Steelers call the Ravens and offer them some advice? Probably not. Instead, they’ll likely work on ways to expose DeShon Elliot in 2020.
Life comes at you fast when you’re a Super Bowl contender.