But, that’s dumb. Obviously, the title is, “Earl Thomas Is Holding Out.”
He stayed away from the voluntary OTA’s, but that’s a non-story because tons of other guys stayed away from their respective OTA’s as well, including Frank Clark, Byron Maxwell, and so on and so forth. Then, on Sunday, Earl declared he’d be holding out of the non-voluntary portion of the OTA’s, with the intention of continuing to hold out through Training Camp and possibly beyond.
This isn’t really a surprise. Earl Thomas is in the final year of his contract. He’s 29 years old, and he’s looking at one more big payday before he finishes up his career on a string of smaller deals. His leverage starts and ends at being one of the best safeties in the league for the better part of 8 seasons, so he feels he deserves the respect that comes with being paid at the top end of the safety market.
But, this will be his third contract. Successful players on their third contracts tend to fail to live up to those contracts, due to age-related declines and an increased injury rate, among other things (most notably: a lack of drive that comes with having made your millions and achieving everything you’ve wanted to achieve in your NFL career). Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer. He’s won a championship. He’s made more money than he’ll ever need; he can take care of his family for generations. Everything after this point is icing on the cake.
We’ve already seen cracks in the Earl Thomas facade. He missed 5 regular season games and the entirety of the 2016 playoffs; he also missed a couple games in 2017 due to injury. It would be absolutely idiotic to expect him to return to being a guy who’s out on the field for every play of every game for the next 4-5 years. Can he still play at an extremely high level when he is healthy? Sure, no problem. But, at this point, I think you’re hoping and praying with every play he makes that he doesn’t get dinged up in some fashion.
The ideal situation for 2018 – assuming you couldn’t get a peach of a deal in return for his services – was that he’d come in, play every game, lead you back to the playoffs, and then you’d thank him for his services and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. Now, I think you obviously have to adjust your expectations. I hope he ONLY holds out for Training Camp, but returns for all the regular season games. Or, failing that, I hope he ONLY holds out for 2 games like Kam Chancellor did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be shocked if he held out the max number of games you can hold out while still having 2018 count as a contract year (he can hold out for up to 10 regular season games and still have his contract expire at the end of the year). I would be shocked if he just retired from the NFL, but I do think it’s on the table, as he seems to be a little erratic.
For me, I don’t have a problem with guys holding out – especially proven elites – as long as they make it back for the regular season. I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do – because how many times do we see guys hold out, then get hurt almost immediately after returning to action? – but I can understand the desire to avoid a lot of additional risk ahead of a contract year. Can you hold out, then get hurt upon returning? Of course, but you can also get hurt in a non-contact drill on the first day of OTA’s as well, so there’s risk every time you step on the field, practice or otherwise. It’s when you affect the games that matter when I start to get pissed off. I’ll forgive a lot, but I still haven’t totally forgiven Kam Chancellor for his 2-game holdout, as I still believe that cost us a shot at a BYE in the playoffs (and, ultimately a shot at going to a third straight Super Bowl). The difference here is, I don’t think the expectations are as high as they were in 2015. Will Earl Thomas mean the difference between a playoff spot or not? Maybe, but I don’t think his impact will be as dramatic as it would’ve been in years past.
Honestly, I’m more interested in how the other safeties respond. How will Delano Hill look? Will Bradley McDougald step into more of a leadership role? Will Tedric Thompson – who everyone seemingly has written off – bounce back and contend for a starting job? Will the team opt to move Shaquem Griffin to safety and is that potentially a spot where he could thrive?
I’m also interested in seeing if this ramps up the trade talk for Earl again. Can we improve upon getting a 3rd round pick in return? Will another team be beset with injuries to their safety room and make a panic move to bring Earl in (much like the Seahawks last year with their offensive and defensive lines)? I’d be more than okay with the Seahawks letting this holdout play out, and if we like what we have behind Earl, waiting for another team to come calling. Maybe we can get that 2nd round draft pick that we lost in the Duane Brown deal. Also, maybe the money we save from this holdout can be carried over into 2019, allowing us to be bigger players in free agency next year.
I also wonder if the Seahawks might be more willing to deal Earl for less. I hope not, but what if that desperation isn’t there from the rest of the league (especially if it’s a team that’s worried about Earl being on the last year of his deal, and unwilling to want to extend him)? Might the Seahawks ship him away for a 4th rounder or worse? Just to cut the tumor out and move on? I’d rather we hang onto Earl and keep him as a potential shot in the arm in the middle of the season, or whenever he decides to start getting paid again.
Anyway, that’s where we are. The Seahawks hold all of the cards (in the battle of Earl vs. The Team) and none of the cards (in the battle of the Seahawks vs. The NFL Trade Market). Regardless of which side you sit on, the fans are the real losers in this scenario, as we not only face the prospect of a watered-down Seahawks defense for part or all of the 2018 season, but we also have to read and hear about this nonstop from now until whenever he returns to the team. Buckle up, it’s going to be a nauseating ride!