In my continuing series entitled: To Blow Up The Seahawks Or Not To Blow Up The Seahawks, I’m taking a look today at Earl Thomas. Recent comments he’s made – I guess dating back to the Dallas game? – indicate he’s not too thrilled with his current contract status, and is considering any and all options, up to and including playing for his hometown Cowboys someday (not technically his hometown, but you get the idea). He’s also indicated that a holdout could be forthcoming if he’s not extended before Training Camp starts.
Thomas has 1 year remaining on his deal. He’s set to count a little over $10 million against the cap. He’ll be 28 years old. He played ALMOST a full year in 2017 after having that devastating injury in 2016. He appears to be back to normal, which is one of the best safeties in football. And, as this figures to be his final major contract (before, I’m assuming, a slew of minor deals before he calls it a career), he’s gonna want to be paid like the best safeties in football. Perhaps, even, the very best.
So, that’s what we’re confronted with: a guy who’s getting up there, who’s had a couple serious injuries the last couple years, threatening a holdout, and likely to command a max deal (or close to it).
What do you do?
One option is to extend him. Probably a 4-year deal on top of his 1 year remaining, with at least 3 of those years guaranteed (2018-2020) at a top-flight salary. Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs is the guy everyone points to; he’s the highest paid safety in the game, making $40 million guaranteed, and averaging $13 million per season. So, that’s the range we’re looking at, more or less.
Another option is to trade him. That could be exceedingly tricky, because he’s already on record as planning to hold out if he’s not extended, and he’s also on record as saying he’d love nothing more than to play for the Cowboys (he’s also on record as saying he’d like to retire with the Seahawks, so long as they’re willing to pony up the cash, so take pretty much anything he says with at least a grain of salt, as all is fair in love and contract negotiations). If it’s true that he’s favoring the Cowboys, that limits our trade partners down to pretty much that one team. Something tells me, though, that money talks and he’d learn to love whatever team is willing to pay him the most.
A third option is to do nothing and call his bluff, but for me that’s not an option, that’s a death sentence for the Seahawks’ 2018 season. We all saw what Kam’s holdout did to this team in 2015; imagine that only 50 times worse because it’s Earl.
I’m really torn on the matter though, because I can see it both ways. I wouldn’t mind extending him if the deal makes sense; I also wouldn’t mind trading him if the deal makes sense. But, if you have to over-pay to keep him, or take pennies on the dollar to trade him, then fuck all of that. Any way you slice it, there’s risk. If you extend him and he has a major neck injury a la Kam and Avril, then you’ve effectively handcuffed this franchise. If you trade him, you’re all but guaranteed to be less effective at the position in 2018, with no real guarantee that the draft pick you get in return will be a capable player in the NFL.
If I had to lean one way, I’d lean toward figuring out if there’s a trade partner that makes sense. But, I’m only willing to trade him if I get fair value in return. I doubt the Seahawks will be able to land a high first round pick (if they did, I’d trade him in a heartbeat). Seems more likely that he’s worth a second rounder, and maybe a swap of lower-round picks or something. If it was a second rounder near the top of the round, with maybe a nice kicker of a fourth rounder or early fifth rounder … I dunno. I’d think about it. Getting a high second rounder from someone means this team isn’t forced into trading its first round pick, and I would love nothing more than for the Seahawks to stay at 18 and get the best player available, regardless of position (but, ideally, running back or safety, if they’re true studs).
But, you know, I’m not super gung ho either way. Keep Earl or don’t, as long as whatever we decide is in the best interest of not just 2018, but going forward. Frankly, I don’t want to see this team continuing to mortgage the future for these ill-advised Win Now propositions. They pretty much never work out, and you just leave your franchise in worse shape for the future.