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The Seahawks could be using Earl Thomas’ departure as NFL Draft smokescreen

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images

How the Seattle Seahawks handle the safety position following Earl Thomas’ departure is perhaps the single most fascinating subplot of the offseason. Thomas, the backbone of Seattle’s defense for the past nine seasons, is well on his way to becoming a first ballot Hall of Famer. The Seahawks’ defense has infamously fell apart in his absence. Most, if not everyone, believe Seattle will need to properly replace him ahead of the 2019 season. But what if the Seahawks themselves don’t subscribe to that theory?

From the time Tedric Thompson stepped into the starting free safety spot during Thomas’ holdout last training camp, through the end of the season when Thompson had once again taken the reins, Pete Carroll has preached the importance of Thompson playing with confidence and trusting his eyes. More than that, Carroll—and his defensive teammates, such as Frank Clark—have spoken of Thompson as though it’s expected he’ll become Thomas’ long-term successor. However, Thompson’s play in 2018 did little to inspire confidence.

After losing Thomas in free agency, it would be safe to assume—league wide—that Seattle will be in the market for a replacement during the draft. But again, that would require Carroll to abandon a project in Thompson he has shown unwavering confidence in.

Another important point to consider is the lack of proper center field-playing safeties in the 2019 NFL Draftsomething I’ve written about extensively. If Carroll does continue with the schematic change they underwent in 2018, then that isn’t necessarily a problem; however, Carroll drastically changing his defense at this point, well, I will need to see to believe.

Regardless of where the Seahawks’ brass stands on the long-term future of the free safety position in Seattle, they are operating as though it is a need. Of the 14 names connected to the Seahawks at this point in the pre-draft process, four are safeties, the most of any position—the majority of which are day one or two prospects. Seattle is doing their due diligence, or at least giving the illusion of doing so.

If we operate under the assumption that the Seahawks will trade back in the first round, they are likely to be in an odd spot. Defensive line is their biggest need, and they could be in a spot to pick from as many as three or four blue chip prospects there—or none. Their perceived interest in safeties could simply be a smokescreen in an effort to secure a premier talent at defensive tackle or defensive end. Or, they really could be trying to replace a Hall of Fame talent in Thomas.