In the lead-up to the start of NFL free agency on Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have been the two teams considered to be the most likely landing spots for erstwhile Seattle Seahawks star Earl Thomas. However, a new report suggests that there could be a dark horse in the race for the soon-to-be free agent safety — the Los Angeles Chargers, who had recently released last year's starting free safety, Jahleel Addae.
On Monday, ESPN's Dan Graziano took a look at this week's "legal tampering" period, where NFL teams could start discussions with the representatives of prospective free agents two days before the start of the new league year. Aside from speculating that it wouldn't be too surprising if the Oakland Raiders have Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell "reunite" with wide receiver Antonio Brown, Graziano made a few more predictions for possible free agency moves, including the possibility of Thomas signing with the Chargers.
"They had some interest in Eric Weddle before he signed with the Rams, and while Thomas will cost a lot more than Weddle did, the Chargers could view him as the player who puts their stacked roster over the top. Of course, the Chiefs, who edged out the Chargers for the AFC West title in 2018, have a need at the position as well and were among the teams interested in trading for Thomas last fall."Aside from Addae's recent release, there could be another reason to consider the Los Angeles Chargers a potential destination for Earl Thomas. As pointed out by USA Today's Chargers Wire, the team's current defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, was still with the Seahawks when Seattle made Thomas the 14th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Thomas, who will be coming off a four-year, $40 million extension once he becomes a free agent on Wednesday afternoon, has frequently been said to be seeking a contract that would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. According to Chargers Wire, this could make it hard for Los Angeles to make a deal that could satisfy Thomas' reported demands, as the Chargers have only about $26.5 million in salary cap room following Addae's release. Furthermore, the outlet noted that the Chargers have "plenty of other options" whom they could consider this offseason as a new starting free safety.
As separately reported by ESPN, the San Francisco 49ers are currently considered the favorites to sign Earl Thomas. While Thomas' former teammate, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, suggested that Thomas could sign for the hometown Dallas Cowboys "if the money is equal," ESPN stressed that the Cowboys are now long shots due to the cap space they might need to spend on their own top-tier players, such as quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.