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Earl Thomas to have surgery on leg, expected to be 100% by free agency

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Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas is going to have surgery on his broken leg, per Ian Rapoport. Thomas will have a metal rod inserted into his leg that is expected to give it more stability moving forward and potentially increase his likelihood of being 100% by next March, when he is a first time free agent.

That could mean good news for Thomas, working through a broken leg for the second time in as many years. But Thomas may run into some harsh realities when he does start taking bids next year and he doesn’t have to look far from his close circle of friends to find out why.

In 2019, Thomas will be a 30-year-old defensive back coming off of a serious season-ending injury.

In 2018, Richard Sherman was a 30-year-old defensive back coming off of a serious season-ending injury. Sherman, representing himself, signed a three-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers that was loaded with incentives to protect the team against injury. Because of that, Sherman is already losing out on money because he’s missing games with a strained calf. Not only does he have weekly bonuses for being active, but he’s got bonuses for 90% playing time and accolades like Pro Bowl and All-Pro that are becoming less and less likely by the game missed.

Sherman’s contract is worth “up to $39 million” but he’s never going to come close to that. His guarantees, per OvertheCap, include his $2 million base salary this year, a $3 million signing bonus, and a $2 million roster bonus for passing a physical at the start of training camp. Say that Sherman plays in 12 games this season, perhaps he earns $10 million for one year.

And the 49ers can cut him before 2019 with barely anything left on the books.

Earl Thomas just held out and got bird-flipping upset because he was only making $10 million per season. Not only does Thomas want more than what Sherman could get this year, but cornerbacks are much more well-paid than safeties are, so Thomas needs to somehow convince a team that he’s healthy, that he’s still the best safety in the game (which to be fair was how he was playing prior to the injury), and that he’s more valuable than a number one corner.

Is that possible, even with a rod in his leg?

I’m going to say probably not and I wonder if that increases the likelihood of Thomas returning to the Seahawks. Thomas may have to accept a contract that does not contain very much in the way of guarantees beyond 2019, so he may as well explore the possibility of a one-year contract that guarantees him at least $10 million, then try and hit free agency in 2020 (with a labor dispute on deck that year anyway) at 31 with one more three-year deal to sign. What team is going to give Thomas a better opportunity than Seattle to increase his odds of prove-it season?

And what safety other than Thomas is going to give the Seahawks a better opportunity to have a top-ranked defense in 2019?

Obviously there is some bitterness between the two sides today, but a lot can change in six months and Thomas has still called this place his home since 2010. He’s still going to thank the fans. He’s still going to come back and be inducted into the Ring of Honor. And he’s still going to say that he’s got the ability to play at an All-Pro level next season. I am sure he’ll need to go out on the market to find out what he’s worth as a free agent, but given the lack of interest in some notable starting safeties on the market in 2018, I believe he could circle back to the Seahawks by the end.

And hey, Sherman might be a free agent by then too.