Dallas Cowboys: Earl Thomas haters were wrong but now it’s too late

Earl Thomas #29 Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Earl Thomas #29 Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

A Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas pairing has been speculated for months, sadly just when the fit becomes clear to all, it also becomes too late.

Since Earl Thomas first yelled “come get me!” to Jason Garrett last December, Cowboys Nation has been obsessed – endlessly arguing the pros and cons of such a transaction. As with most topics Dallas Cowboys, fans are split as to whether or not the value of Earl Thomas would be worth the cost.

Since a trade would be required to acquire the All-Pro safety, it’s not just a matter of salary, but also trade compensation. These opportunity costs would not only take money from the overall salary pool (money that could be used elsewhere) but it would also take away resources (draft picks) that could also be used to improve the team.

It’s the opportunity costs that drove many in Cowboys Nation to condemn the idea. While these folks should be praised for understanding the true “cost” of Earl Thomas, they should be scorned for not seeing how much good he could have done for this team.

The sad thing is – it’s probably too late now.

But many don’t like watching the Cowboys’ All-22, let alone another team. They’d rather just say “Earl Thomas is almost 30-years-old”, than actually research his play.

Full Disclaimer: This isn’t an “I told you so” because I was also wrong. I understood the massive upgrade Earl Thomas would bring and I also understood the opportunity costs. But I was in full support of dragging this thing out to bring down the cost.

I wanted to see Xavier Woods play and determine the delta between their play. All while letting a Seattle holdout drive down the cost of draft pick. But when Woods went down, my plan blew up. Dallas was desperate and Seattle was dug in.

Earl is Good. Dallas is not.

The cold reality is the Dallas Cowboys aren’t very good at safety and Earl Thomas is the NFL’s best safety. Throughout his career, Earl Thomas has established himself as the best safety in the game. Even without practicing, Earl Thomas is the highest rated safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). And his three interceptions lead the NFL.

Anti-trade folks were quick to point out Earl’s INTs on Sunday came on tipped balls against subpar receivers. But does anyone think any of the Cowboys safeties could have done that?

Speaking of Dallas’ safeties – they didn’t do much to impress this past week. Facing their first good passer of the season, the Dallas Cowboys safeties played pretty poorly when playing back in coverage. Xavier Woods looked like he’s certainly worth developing but his 60.6 grade only rated him 55th in the NFL – and he’s the highest rated Cowboys safety!

The Fit

Often times we’re forced to speculate as to whether or not a player fits with a certain scheme and in a certain role. But the Dallas Cowboys have been modeling their defense after Seattle for years. Pete Carroll, Rod Marinelli, and Kris Richard all fall under the same Monte Kiffin coaching tree.

The single high look in Dallas is identical to the single high look in Seattle. Speculation has never been so easy.

The Upgrade

Anti-trade folks often stated the disparity in talent between Dallas’ safeties and Earl Thomas wasn’t enough to justify a trade. Three weeks into the season all evidence points to the contrary. Dallas is below average and dangerously shallow at the safety position. Earl Thomas is simply the best of the best.

None of this is out of the norm either. Earl Thomas has always been great. Go back and watch his All-22 film from this year, last year, or really any year. The amount of ground he covers is mindboggling. But many don’t like watching the Cowboys’ All-22, let alone another team. They’d rather just say “Earl Thomas is almost 30-years-old”, than actually research his play.

BTW: Earl Thomas is not almost 30-years-old. He turned 29 in May. That was only four months ago. This “almost 30” argument has somehow been going on all offseason. It’s like my daughter telling everyone she’s almost six when her birthday isn’t until March. There’s nothing “almost” about it. She’s just trying to convince people she’s older – just like anti-trade people have been trying to convince people Earl Thomas is over the hill. It’s purposely misleading.

Opportunity Cost

But the anti-trade folks aren’t entirely wrong. As discussed before – this isn’t just deciding to pay a player money or not. It’s about investing resources. To get (and keep) Earl Thomas it would take both money and resources. The money spent to pay his salary would take away from the money available to upgrade a different position.

The draft pick sent would also take away from the team’s ability to upgrade at a different position. These costs are real and they must be respected because often times we don’t recognize the true costs of roster building with veterans.

Draft Pick(s)

The water gets murky here as to what the Seahawks would expect in return. Some of the reports have been ridiculous as to what they wanted so let’s just ignore those for the time being. What we think we know is the Dallas Cowboys could have gotten this done if they would have sent Pick 50 to Seattle.

But when Connor Williams fell, they pulled back on the trade and angered Seattle in the process. After the preseason, Dallas reportedly offered a second again only to be met with a stone wall. It was already too late.

The Pending Extension

I think we can all assume this trade would never go down unless the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas had some sort of contract extension in place. There’s no way they send a Day 2 pick without at least knowing all parties resided within the same ballpark.

Many Dallas Cowboys fans cited the possibility of not retaining him as a reason to not make the trade. Logic told us that is a false argument. We know Thomas wants to be paid on par with Eric Berry so we know the Dallas Cowboys would have to be willing to pony up roughly $13M per season to get it done. Besides, before any trade goes down, teams generally grant permission for the agent and team to meet to discuss expectations. This wasn’t going to be a blind trade like so many anti-trade folks tried to make it seem.

What Could Have Been

The weakest part of the Dallas Cowboys defense is clearly deep safety. If the Cowboys were strong on the back end, they would not only eliminate the big play, but they could give their anemic offense great field position.

Dallas is 31st in the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage, only converting 23.53%. This tells us converting two third downs on the same drive are statistically unlikely. Field position is paramount and playing on a short field is key to scoring points.

Having a player like Earl would help the offense just as much as help the defense. The offense may still be struggling, but they’d at least be scoring points on short fields.

Too Late

Here we are. Anti-trade Dallas Cowboys fans saw Earl Thomas up close and personal. They could avoid watching him no longer. They are trying their hardest to delegitimize his interceptions but they’re just delegitimizing their own analysis. They still probably won’t watch the All-22 but it really doesn’t matter at this point because it’s probably too late.

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-2. They have the 31st ranked offense and sit last in the NFC East (ok, they have the tiebreaker over NYG). Their draft picks just increased in value and they look more like a team rebuilding than contending.

The Dallas Cowboys have likely missed their window with Earl. A real contender is more likely to trade for him now. And keep in mind, if someone trades for him they’ll do so thinking they can re-sign him. Earl wants money so if someone is going to pay him guaranteed money now, he’s not going to pass it over just so he can play with his favorite team.

I hope Earl Thomas becomes a Dallas Cowboy I’m just hoping it’s in the offseason as free agent. The circumstances have changed and Dallas can no longer afford to lose draft picks. If they had Earl from the start they might be contenders right now, who knows?

What we do know is Earl would have dramatically upgraded the Cowboys at safety and lifted the defense as a whole. He would have flipped the field and given Dak Precsott optimal field position. He would have given Dallas a chance to win. We screwed this thing up.

Breakdown and analysis of Cowboys at Seattle. dark. Next

Some people hated the idea of trading for Earl Thomas for good and sound reasons. But far too many haters did not. By now it should be clear – Earl Thomas would have been worth a second rounder. I was wrong too in my negotiation tactics. Oh well, it’s too late now…

  • Published on 09/25/2018 at 12:30 PM
  • Last updated at 09/25/2018 at 12:29 PM