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Ravens, Earl Thomas likely will meet again -- in arbitration

Peter King shares what he learned from his conversations with Ravens coach John Harbaugh and NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens have released safety Earl Thomas. They have attributed the action to “personal conduct that has adversely affected” the team. They surely will refuse to pay his $10 million guaranteed salary for 2020. Thomas surely will file a grievance seeking the payment, which ultimately will be the difference between $10 million and whatever he earns elsewhere in 2020.

His contract, a copy of which PFT obtained on Saturday contains standard language (not player friendly or team friendly, just standard language) voiding guarantees in the event of a failure or refusal to report, practice or play, leaving the club with consent, suspension for conduct detrimental, or suspension by the league under league policies (Personal Conduct, substance abuse, PED).

Some will say that, because Thomas wasn’t actually suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, his guarantees were not voided. The Ravens, presumably acting with the advice of legal counsel and input from the league office, undoubtedly believe that the action taken -- termination for conduct that adversely affected the team -- wipes out the guarantees.

The answer possibly lies in the literal interpretation of the contract. In many cases involving the potential elimination of guarantees, the team voids the guarantees but keeps the player, retaining the ability to cut him later, for skill, injury, or cap reasons. In this case, the Ravens released Thomas for reasons not due to skill, injury, or cap but due to personal misconduct that adversely affected the team.

The contract makes clear the fact that the $10 million will be paid despite the fact that the team has released Thomas for skill, salary cap, or injury reasons. Here, the Ravens cut Thomas for a fourth reason, one not covered by the guarantee: Personal misconduct that adversely affected the team.

That’s how the grievance likely will play out. Thomas and the NFL Players Association will argue that Thomas is entitled to the $10 million guarantee, and the Ravens will argue that they cut him for a reason not covered by the guarantee. And if the Ravens can prove that they cut him because of personal misconduct that adversely affected the team and not due to skill, injury, or cap, Thomas will get nothing.