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Former Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas eyes NFL return, 3 potential landing spots

Matt Johnson
Earl Thomas
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Thomas earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019, playing at a high level and making his case for future enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now two years removed from playing a snap, the 32-year-old wants to make a comeback.

It’s been a turbulent career for the 5-foot-10 safety. Selected 14th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2010 NFL Draft, he found success quickly. Thomas earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2011 then made first-team All-Pro in three consecutive seasons.

A Super Bowl champion, Thomas received a spot on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. However, the Texas alum hasn’t played since 2019. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Thomas now wants to attempt an NFL comeback.

Related: NFL defense rankings – Outlooks for top 20 defenses entering summer

What happened to Earl Thomas?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Behavioral issues became an issue for Thomas late during his tenure in Seattle. Playing out the last year of his contract, Thomas flipped off the Seahawks’ sideline as he was carted off the field with a fractured leg in September 2018. It came just weeks after he repeatedly skipped practices amid a contract dispute and fractured relations with the team.

  • Earl Thomas career stats: 71 pass deflections, 30 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles

The Baltimore Ravens signed him to a four-year, $55 million contract in March 2019. He made a strong on-field impact, earning the seventh Pro Bowl selection in his career and receiving an 84.7 pass coverage grade from Pro Football Focus.

In May 2020, he was involved in an altercation with his then-wife. Shortly after, he was involved in a fight at practice with teammate Chuck Clark and the Ravens released him days later. The Houston Texans canceled a workout with him in September 2020 due to COVID-19 issues.

Here’s a quick look at the few teams that might be a potential option for Earl Thomas, if there is even interest.

  • Dallas Cowboys: The last time Thomas became available, the Cowboys weren’t interested. It’s possible things are different in 2022 with his former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn now running that side of the ball in Dallas. The Cowboys have a need at safety and Quinn has called Thomas one of his favorite players ever, but behavioral issues and two years off from football might nix any possibility of interest from Dallas.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: We’ve certainly seen a willingness from the Eagles to take chance on players. It’s also noteworthy that one of the team’s biggest needs is safety. If Earl Thomas is still capable of playing at a solid level, he would certainly strengthen Philly’s pass defense. It would only take a one-year contract and the guaranteed money wouldn’t be a concern. Ultimately, the Eagles are far more likely to address the position in the NFL Draft.
  • Los Angeles Rams: It never hurts to have more depth and talent on defense. After striking out on cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency, the Rams could look towards safety as a means of improving the secondary. While Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner have a shaky history, they both would likely be willing to put it aside in pursuit of a Super Bowl. If things didn’t work out, Los Angeles could easily cut Thomas.