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Roundtable: Will releasing Earl Thomas ultimately help or hurt the Ravens?

The Baltimore Beatdown staff give their takes on Thomas

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

We are back for another roundtable discussion! A number of our staff and I have a mixed bag of opinions regarding the Earl Thomas situation. The future Hall of Fame safety had his contract terminated due to “personal conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens.” Did the Ravens make the right move?

The release Earl Thomas III was difficult to come to terms with. My hope was that Thomas and company would clear the air and look to get back on track. Unfortunately, far too much damage was done for the Ravens to move forward with Thomas on the roster. Coaches and players ultimately felt better off without Thomas.

Personally, I would've loved the Ravens to give Thomas another shot at cleaning up his act. If that were to happen, however, the front office is jeopardizing the brotherhood and camaraderie within the Ravens’ locker room, which has been beautifully cultivated in the past few years.

What fans still need to remember is that Thomas remains one of the best safeties in the league. It’s difficult to agree with a decision to release a player of Thomas’ caliber since he would've undoubtedly had another good season. Last year, Thomas gave up a 0.4% catch rate when targeted, which was among the best in the NFL. Thomas made numerous big plays during the regular season and regularly displayed his seasoned instincts.

My biggest problem with the departure of Thomas is his replacement. Though I admire DeShon Elliot’s play, he hasn't been able to stay healthy as a pro, missing 26 out of 32 regular season games. Teammates and coaches seem to have all of the faith in Elliot’s ability to fill the shoes of Thomas. As talented as Elliot is, I can almost guarantee you he won't be as impactful as Thomas was in his short tenure as a Raven.

As of now, I believe this move will hurt the Ravens. At the same time, I hope that I am proved wrong. As long as Elliot remains healthy and continues to improve, I believe the Ravens will be able to make up for Thomas’ absence. Regardless, the Ravens took a step back after Thomas’ departure.

— Adrian Charchalis

The loss of Thomas is a major blow to what was heavily lauded as the NFL’s best secondary entering the 2020 season. Thomas wasn’t the same playmaker in 2019 that fans are accustomed to seeing, but he was still a menacing presence that opposing QBs avoided at all costs. Thomas shut down his portion of the field.

Third-year safety DeShon Elliott is tasked with filling the future Hall of Famer’s massive shoes. Elliott has suffered unfortunate season-ending injuries in both of his first two seasons, leading to very little in-game experience. While on the field, however, Elliott has flashed the range and instincts needed from the FS position.

As for team chemistry, cutting Thomas was a needed move. Many sources have cited that several players were unhappy with Thomas and wanted him off of the team. Cutting Thomas sends a loud and clear message to a relatively young team, and that is that no player comes before the team.

— Dustin Cox

Losing Earl Thomas opens up a critical hole on the defensive side of the ball at safety. At the moment there is no perfect replacement for the future hall of famer on the team, and the pickings are quite slim around the league if the Ravens wanted to trade for a new one. The hole is a major one that teams may look to exploit in the coming year, so making a move seems likely; however, the Ravens may like what they see out of DeShon Elliot in practice.

There have been many reports that Earl was less than perfect in the locker room, and if that’s all accurate, this may be a good thing in the long run for the locker room dynamic.

Even so, I can’t get over the loss of someone who, at his age, was one of the top safeties in the NFL in 2019. Only time will tell if it turns out for the best.

— Peter Daubert

Reports following Thomas’ release indicate this unfortunate decision had to be made. Nevertheless, the subtraction of Thomas’ on-field talent is a significant blow to the Ravens Super Bowl aspirations.

Earl’s coverage, along with Chuck Clark’s savvy, greatly improved the Ravens ability to defend the pass between the hashes and neutralize tight ends in 2019, areas that plagued them in previous seasons. Despite losing considerable leadership and several pass rushers, this middle of the field improvement allowed the defense to blitz at an even greater rate and outperform the 2018 unit in many metrics.

Now the pressure is on Elliott to fill the void. Elliott may not be a prototype single high free safety, but he does have the skillset to soften the blow if he can remain healthy. Secondary depth will take a hit no matter how Martindale decides to deploy his DBs.

The upgrades to the defensive front will improve the rush defense but the loss of Thomas could pose challenges against teams that are happy to abandon the run. Hopefully DeCosta can swing a trade for a wideout or safety so Baltimore is better equipped to dethrone Kansas City.

— Vasilis Lericos

The Ravens are losing a massive presence over the middle of the field. No safety was avoided deep in coverage last year like Thomas. His EPA when targeted, passer rating when targeted, % of targets defenses were all among league leaders. Thomas was also quick to close lanes in the intermediate areas with his quick reactions. The Ravens will certainly be tested deep. There will be drop-off from Thomas to Elliott and other players, as no one possesses the intangibles that Earl brought to the table.

How significant the drop-off will be is unknown. If it becomes a major problem, a trade would make sense before the deadline. At the same time, trading more assets adds to the sunk cost of the decision to sign Thomas. Paying $22 million in 2019, with up to $25 million still on the table, losing out on a third round compensatory pick, then trading another pick to acquire, then pay another safety is quite a bill to foot. Eric DeCosta will have to exhaust all options.

— Spencer Schultz