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Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When people consider whether the Dallas Cowboys should trade for Seattle Seahawks' Safety Earl Thomas, one rebuttal fans throw out there is his age, and for good reason. People get concerned about handing out contract extensions to players entering their age-29 season.

In the salary cap era of the NFL, it typically isn't good business to pay age as the team often doesn't get the value out of the player that the contract expects.

One position where I feel that isn't necessarily the case is at the safety position. Let's consider Earl Thomas' accolades for a moment and see if we can find some correlations.

Earl Thomas, in his eight-year career, has been to the Pro Bowl six times, missing out his rookie season and in 2016 when he only played 11 games. He's been selected to the NFL All-Pro's first team three times in consecutive years from 2012 to 2015.

So, let's go over to our friends at Pro Football Reference and see which other safeties have been to the Pro Bowl at least six times and have been selected as a first team All-Pro player three times.

Here's the list:

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The first thing you'll notice is the elite players on the list along with Earl Thomas. The likes of Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Aeneas Williams, and Charles Woodson. Those are just the players whose career extended into 2000s.

Then if you consider Ronnie Lott and Cliff Harris, that's some amazing company.

The players with an asterisk are the players that are in the Hall of Fame. Reed, Polamalu, and Woodson will be in the Hall of Fame. Cliff Harris not being in the Hall of Fame is still an NFL injustice that needs to be righted as he was one of the key cogs to the success of the Doomsday Defense of the 1970s.

I know Deion Sanders is on the list, and he's only there because he did play some safety toward the tail end of his career, but we know that it was as a corner that Deion made his money. The key though is that Deion's switch to safety at the end allowed him to prolong his career.

Removing Earl from the discussion for a moment, the average length of the careers of the men mentioned above was 13.41 years. The longest career was Charles Woodson at 18 years followed by Deion at 17 and Brian Dawkins at 16 years. The shortest careers were the 10-year careers of Cliff Harris and Joey Browner.

So, if Earl Thomas, having played eight years, played to the short end of the career length, he'd still have another two years left, this season included. If he played to the average length of those listed above, he'd have another five years left.

Considering that half of the players listed above all played longer than the average, there's a good chance that Earl Thomas has another six to seven years left in his career.

So, when we think about an extension for Earl Thomas, we have to consider the fact that for someone who has had the career that he's had to this point, he's going to be able to play at a good to great level for the life of a four-year extension.

Earl Thomas is an elite player and is on track to one day be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If the Dallas Cowboys could add that to their young and developing defense for the next four years, they shouldn't worry about his age.

Obviously, anything can happen, and people may point to him missing games in each of the last two seasons, but prior to 2016, Earl Thomas played and started 100% of his team's games. That's a six season stretch of being available for every single game.

For a team that is really close to contention and has the makings of an elite defense, Earl Thomas could be the missing piece that could put them over the top, much like Charles Haley did for the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s.

Don't let the age thing distract you from adding one of the best safeties in the NFL and one of the best players in the league. Earl Thomas to the Dallas Cowboys just makes too much sense not to do it, and for the All-Pro safety, age is just a number.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ctabor21

    July 17, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I’d like to see someone now take these guys and figure out the avg stats for their yrs 30-34 and see if those stats are worth top money. Just because these HOFers made it that long doesn’t mean their stats warranted top money.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      July 18, 2018 at 1:49 am

      Rod Woodson age 29 and beyond – 6 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro Selections. Averaged 4.3 interceptions per season over from age 29-38. In those 10 seasons failed to play 16 games only 10 times.

      Ronnie Lott made the Pro Bowl in his age 29 season and for the next three seasons after that as well as being selected a First-Team All-Pro at age 30, 31, and 32. He averaged 3.6 Interceptions per game at age 29 and beyond.

      Ed Reed was selected to the Pro Bowl 6 straight seasons age 29 and older and made three first team All-Pro teams and averaged 4.6 interceptions per season.

      Charles Woodson played 11 seasons from age 29 and on, averaging 4.5 interceptions for those 11 seasons, making 5 Pro Bowls, and 2 First-Team All Pros (all at age 32 and beyond). Only twice did he fail to play in at least 14 games a season over those last 11 years.

      Aeneas Williams averaged 2.9 interceptions per season, made five pro bowls and had two first team All-Pro selections while playing 16 games six out of the 8 seasons from age 29 and beyond.

      Brian Dawkins made 7 pro bowls, 3 All-Pro Teams and averaged 1.9 interceptions per season while playing in an average of 13.7 games per season.

      This doesn’t mean that Thomas will follow the same career trajectory, but he has a shot to be able to play another 10 years at safety. It’s a position that ages well.

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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