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Seahawks’ Earl Thomas conundrum is more complicated than ever

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Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos zPhoto by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Whether these folks are ready to admit it yet or not, a lot of Seattle Seahawks fans were ready to trade Earl Thomas for a second round pick a week ago. The truth is that trades are so tantalizing; they involve change, movement, unknowns, and future draft picks. Thomas may be an all-time great Seahawk, but having not seen him around for awhile, plenty of fans were ready to move on and secure something like the 50th overall pick instead. After all, that spot has returned Isaiah Pead, Javier Arenas, Marcus Gilchrist, Jon Bostic, Ronald Darby, Nick Martin, and Jeremiah Attaochu in recent years.

Who could turn down four years of Javier Arenas just for the rights to one of the best safeties in history?

Not that I was opposed to Seattle trading Earl either, but I saw no path towards them getting the compensation they desired. Maybe they get a third round comp next year if he leaves, maybe they don’t, but I don’t think you give up a year of an All-Pro safety just because you’re afraid you won’t get a day two pick if he leaves in 2019. And yet still, before the Week 1 game against the Denver Broncos, Thomas’ value just didn’t seem to be what it once was. The team itself seemed to be weaker than previous seasons, Thomas is a little bit older, and now a little less interested in finishing his career in Seattle.

One game in and you have to wonder how the Seahawks could even justify parting ways with Thomas after 2018, unless they really are willing to get weaker at another spot on defense. Thomas didn’t even report until days before the game and yet he left Mile High as perhaps Seattle’s best player that day.

The break from camp caused Thomas to miss 10 snaps on defense, needing additional rest, and in those snaps is when Case Keenum and the Broncos’ offense did much of their damage. Clearly Tedric Thompson’s performance in camp and the preseason was enough to earn him the starting gig should Thomas not return, but in these small sample sizes, it seems that Thompson could have been a disaster for 16 games worth, akin to the hype and subsequent failure of Steven Terrell in 2016.

The Seahawks just don’t seem to be the Seahawks without Earl Thomas, but I still think there’s going to be a major roadblock when it comes to the contract he wants and the deal Seattle is willing to give him.

At this time, Eric Berry has the highest APY for all safeties at $13 million per season. Thomas’ current deal pays him $10 million annually, and he’s likely going to want a raise that gets him at least $13.1 million per year; contract “records” are everything these days. Seattle is already paying Kam Chancellor nearly $10 million against the cap this year to not play, and will have $5 million in dead money in 2019 after they release him. They are also paying Bradley McDougald about $5 million annually, a potential bargain but not when you sort of add in Chancellor’s money, then you see that in total they are still paying strong safety $10 million in 2019. To continue to pay Earl would make them the highest paid safety group in the NFL again — a title they currently hold despite no presence of Kam — and lock them in on a high salary for Earl for at least two more years after that.

This at a time when Eric Reid is a free agent.

Tyrann Mathieu, who had an interception in his debut with the Houston Texans, only got a one-year, $7 million deal.

George Iloka was cut and signed a $1 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

Even McDougald got a pretty low salary for a player who can adequately start both safety positions and had two interceptions on Sunday. He’s a starting safety making nearly the same amount as Cordarrelle Patterson, a player who experts are calling, “Not that good.”

In my mind, Thomas is asking for $13.1 million and $30 million guaranteed or something, and the Seahawks are offering a three-year, $30 million contract, with $15 million guaranteed or something. Seattle’s offer would be good in this case, keeping him among the highest paid safeties and probably about what they think he’ll actually get on the open market. In Thomas’ camp though, it would be an insult, and I’m sure he believes that as long as he comes out of this season healthy, he could beat the four-year, $48 million extension that Reshad Jones got in 2017.

And he might be right. Thomas did a lot of things in the offseason that were completely useless — pen a story for The Players Tribune, make Instagram posts, stay home in Austin — but all he really needed to do was show up for a game to make his point. Thomas was incredible on Sunday, which is something that we all should have expected because Thomas is incredible. And the Miami Dolphins are not yet regretting the extension to Jones, who was also 29 when he signed it and who had two interceptions this week to match McDougald at the top of the leaderboard. The question is: Are the Seahawks willing to beat Jones’ four-year extension? Or are they going to stick to a plan that might not include Thomas in the plans after 2019 despite knowing that at present they appear to be much worse off without him?

After one game of Earl, what would you be willing to give up? Thomas or the cap space.

Poll

What would you do with Earl Thomas?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Give him the extension he wants
    (1473 votes)
  • 10%
    Trade him for a 2nd round pick
    (295 votes)
  • 38%
    Hold steady until the offseason
    (1110 votes)
2878 votes total Vote Now