It’s an age-old maxim in the NFL, once a player reaches a certain age, his skills decline. Usually we think of the age of 30 as the demarcation line, probably because it’s a nice even breaking point as opposed to 29 or 31. Anyway, when it comes to free agents, teams are wary about handing out big contracts to players who are reaching or have passed the 30 line.
One free agent connected to the Cowboys this offseason has been safety Earl Thomas. Maybe you have heard something about that? It just so happens that Thomas will turn 30 on May 7th of this year. One of the arguments against signing Thomas, and making him one of the highest-paid safeties in the game, is his age. It’s logical, but according to Pro Football Focus, Thomas just may be like a fine wine that is getting better with age,
In an article about one free agent each team needs to sign, the Cowboys were paired with Thomas and PFF had this to say:
2018 team: Seahawks | Age: 30
Thomas is coming off a broken leg but was the best safety in the NFL before his injury last season. If we count only the weeks in which Thomas played (Weeks 1-4), he would’ve finished with the best overall grade (91.3) among all safeties. He also grabbed three interceptions and allowed a passer rating of just 73.6 in that span. He has range, can cover, is willing to stop the run and can tackle, and the Cowboys need a game-changing safety like Thomas if they want to reach the next level. Despite nearing age 30, Thomas is coming off his best two-year stretch in terms of PFF grading, having finished each of the past two seasons with 90-plus overall grades.
So Thomas has had his best two-year stretch over the last two years? Even better than when the fabled Legion of Boom was in full effect? Of course, this is just PFF’s opinion and not everybody agrees with their rankings, but it is something to consider.
On the downside is that even though the recent two-year stretch has been graded high, Thomas has been unable to finish the seasons because of injury. That’s one of the items that comes with age, and why teams are wary of handing out those big contracts to guys 30 and over.
Over at The Athletic, they believe the Cowboys and Thomas will eventually get a deal done.
Earl Thomas: Dallas Cowboys
I know Dallas’ plan is to stay disciplined in free agency, but safety is a position of need, and Thomas has made no secret that he’d love to play for the team he grew up rooting for. Ultimately, the two sides find a middle ground and Thomas joins an already talented defense.