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Tiki and Tierney: Qadry Ismail on the Ravens releasing Earl Thomas
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Once upon a time not long ago, when the Dallas Cowboys were led by Jason Garrett and lived live slow, Earl Thomas was seemingly all the Dallas Cowboys could think about, and vice versa. That is no longer the case in 2020, at least not from the team’s side of the equation. Now that the All-Pro safety is again on the open market, and for the second time in as many years, any thoughts of the Cowboys jumping at the chance to add him to the roster are being met with an icy glare from new head coach Mike McCarthy; who isn’t nearly as attracted to the idea as Garrett was. 

That said, the team confirmed an initial CBS Sports report that they’d revisit the idea of signing Thomas following his controversial release from the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s been several days now since the cut and as of Monday, sources affirmed Jerry Jones and Co. had still not reached out to Thomas. In an interview with 105.3FM the Fan on Tuesday, Jones confirmed this as well, albeit in the most Jerry Jones way possible. 

“Well, discussions directly with Earl, I have not had any,” Jones said, before doing his best to crochet a more intentionally complex (read: confusing) response. “And we have not had any, but I haven’t had any either.”

It’s key to note Jones has already taken aim at reports alleging the Cowboys don’t have interest in Thomas and haven’t had discussions about the veteran safety, previously declaring the team absolutely does have interest and has had discussions — the latter coming not long after McCarthy had already confessed it anyway. In full form on Tuesday morning, Jones then went on to again profess interest, contradicting what you just read in his previous quote. 

“Discussions internally — we have discussions,” he said. “That, certainly, [Thomas is] an outstanding football player, and we’re sitting here at personnel time and we’re looking for ways to get better. And he would be one of several that we would discuss during this particular time we finalize this roster. It would be a misleading thing to say that we haven’t discussed him. It would be a misleading thing to say that we have.”

Did you catch all of that? Don’t feel too badly if you didn’t, because your befuddlement was Jones’ goal, but for a reason. 

“Do y’all want me to tell you which way I’m going when I leave my office, or do you want me to tell you what I’m doing on a next business decision?” the Hall of Fame owner posited. “There’s competition out here. There’s a lot of nuances. And, so, I know you understand why we wouldn’t on something as sensitive as a competitive roster decision, and why we wouldn’t discuss it with thousands and thousands of people that aren’t necessarily fans. 

“Some of them are competition.”

That is certainly fair, and it’s a point made previously by team exec Stephen Jones, who passed on any and all manner of inquiry regarding Thomas, noting it usually works best for the Cowboys if they play things close to the vest — noting the signing of Everson Griffen as one example. The difference between Thomas and Griffen is about equivalent to that between Pluto and the sun, however, given the fact the former is now entrenched in controversy stemming from this abbreviated stint with the Ravens. This would explain why teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers, the latter having lost Derwin James for the season, both waved off any speculation of adding Thomas.

Additionally, to that point, the New York Giants opted to instead sign Logan Ryan to a one-year, $7.5 million deal as opposed to adding Thomas, which is interesting when considering Garrett is now in the building in New Jersey. Ryan would’ve arguably been a better fit for the Cowboys, but that’s of no consequence now, seeing as the Giants made sure they grabbed him and left Thomas on the board. There’s no denying the talent of a seven-time Pro Bowler, but that’s not the only thing at play for teams who need an upgrade at safety ahead of the regular season, such as the Cowboys and McCarthy.

Thomas was sent home after punching a teammate and subsequently released and then came stories of him shrugging off meetings and generally being a bad teammate having fueled those very teammates to vote him out of Baltimore. One team source actually told CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora the club felt Thomas “had to go” — leaving his brand exceedingly tarnished at the moment. 

Here’s the robust bottom line when it comes to Thomas and the Cowboys, for those who are having a hard time sifting through it all: 

The Cowboys have interest, yes, but it’s tapered off greatly in 2020. The reasons why are obvious when factoring in age, a step back in production, durability concerns and now issues with his character. The first three points are more easily forgiven in a Cowboys organization that still hopes to solidify the safety position beside Xavier Woods, and who could simply offer Thomas an incentive-laden contract that guarantees zero dollars, but there’s no promise he’d even accept it, particularly after they refused to meet his salary demands in free agency in 2019. 

He doesn’t exactly have a ton of leverage this time around though, but even if he’s willing to take whatever shells and cheese the Cowboys slide across the table, he has to get past McCarthy’s yellow light. Entering his first year with the team, McCarthy is already up against it with an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that cost him an April 6 start, minicamp and an entire preseason. Currently, and despite it all, he has the locker room completely in lockstep with his plans going forward; chemistry currently also being at an all-time high. 

This is why sources continue to tell CBS Sports McCarthy is tapping the brakes when it comes to Thomas.

McCarthy simply isn’t comfortable with the idea of potentially fracturing his shiny new locker room for the sake of a possible upgrade, and the optimal word is possible, and not because of Thomas’ skill set (which is a definite upgrade); but because there’s no guarantee the injury bug doesn’t again show up for a 31-year-old who’s been on injured reserve two out of the last four seasons. As you see, there is much to hash out, and it’s why the Cowboys are still “in discussion” and haven’t called Thomas.

It’s possible the team will finally convince McCarthy adding Thomas will be worth the risk, but it’s not happened yet, and may not happen at all. Until/unless it does, Thomas will simply remain an idea in the back of the Cowboys mind, which is in stark contrast to when he was their biggest safety crush. Time hasn’t done Thomas any favors because of what he’s done with it, so when it comes to the unbridled adoration that once led the Cowboys to offer up a first-round pick in exchange for him?

Well, mostly, he’s knocked it out the box, which makes the latest saga nothing more than a children’s story — because McCarthy.

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