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The upper and lower limits on a possible Earl Thomas deal

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC vs AFC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Thomas is holding out.

Hopefully that isn’t too much of a shock. Thomas is currently heading into the final year of his four-year, $40 million dollar second contract that he signed in 2014. Some would say he is under contract and should play, but holding out during OTAs/training camp is an accepted leverage point for players under the current CBA. If he were to play out this contract, his cap hit would be $10.5 million this year, which isn’t even in the top five for safeties right now. That is a complete bargain for the best free safety in the league.

It has been tough to tell from the outside exactly what is going with contract negotiations. Some reports have indicated the two sides haven’t talked recently. At the end of mini camp, Pete Carroll said that the Seattle Seahawks’ front office was working hard at Thomas’s contract situation.

It makes sense if they are talking, even if it is just preliminary numbers and not hard core negotiations, since this is the last year of his contract and extending him could be mutually advantageous. Thomas, like all NFL players, wants some security past this season. For the Seahawks, in most scenarios, a new contract for Earl means more cap room this year to extend guys like Frank Clark or Tyler Lockett, if they so choose. Both players are entering the final season of their rookie deals.

Holdouts and extensions lead to the inevitable question, how much? How much is John Schneider willing to pay him? How much does Earl Thomas want? How much will fans be comfortable with? The upper and lower ranges of contracts are fairly easy to define. Thanks to for all the contract numbers.

A Comparable Contract

A year ago, Eric Berry signed an extension with the Kansas City Chiefs worth six years and $78 million. $29.8 million were paid up front in bonuses and 2017 salary, which counted for 38% of the contract, but up to $40 million in guarantees take hold before 2019.

Eric Berry’s Contract

This is most likely what Thomas’s representatives will walk into negotiations with as their base contract. They will want to beat this, one way or another and make Earl the highest paid safety in the league.

The Bottom Contract

Kam Chancellor’s Contract

Seattle won’t be able offer anything lower than Kam Chancellor’s contract to start negotiations off. They most likely won’t be able to satisfy Thomas’s demands without making him the highest paid defender on the roster. Thomas technically is already scheduled to earn more than Chancellor in 2018, but he’ll want bigger numbers over the length of the next deal.

These two contracts then represent the upper and lower limits, the starting points for negotiation. Earl Thomas’s people will want to make him the highest paid safety in the league and the Seahawks will have to start their negotiations with him paid higher than Chancellor. What could those contracts end up looking like?

The Upper Limit

This is a contract that would eclipse Eric Berry’s in multiple ways. The up front guarantees slightly bigger are and they can claim that the per-year money of the extension is larger (“$60 million over four years” although technically in this scenario Thomas is giving up some money in the final year of his old deal that would make the five-year APY still lower than Berry’s). Seattle would only on the hook for a large amount of guarantees in 2018 and 2019 and can very affordably walk away after the third year of the extension if age starts winning.

A Realistic Bottom

This bottom end contract has more guarantees for him than he has now, but doesn’t beat out Eric Berry in that respect. It would again allow his people to claim (again twisting the overall numbers) that across the three new years of the contract he would be the highest paid safety for now, which seems to be important even though it isn’t over the full length. The Seahawks get a lot of security, in that it is very easy to walk away from after 2019.

There is some room in between these two contracts and lots of ways for them to get super creative, but I think these are the bounding parameters of a possible deal. Hopefully they come to a resolution that keeps Earl a Seahawk and doesn’t kill the cap. What do you think Seattle should do?


What type of contract would you like the Seahawks to give Earl Thomas?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Give him anything he wants
    (112 votes)
  • 33%
    The Upper Limit
    (519 votes)
  • 30%
    The Realistic Bottom
    (469 votes)
  • 29%
    One with another team
    (459 votes)
1559 votes total Vote Now