It's Week 4 in the NFL and Earl Thomas is still a free agent. The most prominent and glaring name in the current pool of players seeking a team, Thomas is also strapped with a mammoth amount of baggage and negative press -- on the heels of being voted out of the Baltimore Ravens organization by the team's Leadership Council following a physical altercation in practice. His official release came on August 21 and it's taken nearly six weeks for him to meet with another club, with the Houston Texans sitting down with the All-Pro safety this week to get a look at him in person and to gauge his mindset.
Thomas underwent a physical at an outside facility -- something he would not have done if he was disinterested in joining the team -- but was sent home with no deal (or offer) after an interview with general manager Bill O'Brien, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, and for two primary reasons.
The first stemmed from a league-wide memo warning teams to be cautious in hosting free agents due to a COVID-19 spread within the Tennessee Titans organization, leading O'Brien to cut the visit a bit short. The other reasons are more telling, however, and raise additional questions on if Thomas is truly ready to rejoin an NFL club. The Texans reportedly determined, after a short visit with Thomas, that he is not a good fit for for them -- neither on the field nor in the locker room -- Rapoport explained.
That is a massive condemnation from a team that could certainly use Thomas' services in the wake of A.J. Moore being moved to injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but who also met with four other safeties just in case. The other four have not been named.
"We'll see where it is going forward," O'Brien told media on Wednesday, via Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. "I have a lot of respect for Earl."
With multiple reports initially noting there was a high probability Thomas would sign in Houston, the about-face from O'Brien will likely raise the eyebrows of other GMs who might've already been apprehensive about adding Thomas to their team. Listed as a frontrunner to initially sign the 31-year-old following his turbulent release from the Ravens were the Dallas Cowboys, but there's a reason they've thus far not yet made a single call to him -- sources continue to affirm to CBS Sports -- and it's in the same air as what's now being reported regarding the Texans.
As reported by CBS Sports in early September, Mike McCarthy -- the new sheriff in Dallas --, and owner Jerry Jones isn't looking to bulldoze his new head coach to make it happen. While it's clear the Cowboys need assistance at safety, they're weighing the need against the risk and have continually determined Thomas isn't currently worth the latter -- much like the Texans now have. This is why the Cowboys are content with stick with the players "on campus" right now, despite severe struggles and IR-worthy defensive back injuries through the first three weeks.
Additionally, it's not simply character issues that have both/multiple clubs turning their back on Thomas, but also those surrounding availability and age, considering he's now on the wrong side of 30 and spent two of his last four seasons in injured reserve. As a related side note, the Indianapolis Colts lost Malik Hooker for the year with a torn Achilles, but it's not Thomas they're calling -- it's a workout with Tony Jefferson scheduled this week.
As the season rolls along, if things deteriorate further at the position for teams around the league, the employment status of Thomas could change in an instant but, for now, the Texans join the Cowboys and other safety-needy clubs in waving him off.