In the wake of Earl Thomas signing with the Baltimore Ravens Wednesday, one question lingered — is the contract he received something he ever could have gotten from the Seahawks?
It’s a question that is easier to address — if not completely answer — a day later now that we have the full details of Thomas’ four-year deal worth up to $55 million.
As Pro Football Talk noted, the contract Thomas signed with Baltimore is about as simple of a deal as there can be in the NFL, with nothing but a signing bonus and base salaries — no roster bonuses, no incentives, no nothing else.
Thomas received a $20 million bonus the minute he signed the deal — which was half of the $40 million total of his last Seattle contract (which included a $9.5 million bonus) and then base salaries of $2 million, $10 million, $11 million and $12 million from 2019-22.
The first two base salaries are guaranteed, giving Thomas $32 million guaranteed at signing, all to be received by the end of the 2020 season, $22 million by the end of 2019.
The last two base salaries are not guaranteed and the contract is structured such that the Ravens could get out of it without too much pain following Thomas’ third year in 2021 (the dead cap hit is just $5 million in 2022 — it’s a whopping $32 million in 2019).
The average per year is $13.75 million, which puts Thomas just behind the $14 million of Landon Collins and Tyrann Mathieu as the third-highest paid safety for the moment.
Thomas was making $10 million per year on his last Seahawks deal, signed in April 2014, so his Baltimore contract represents a definite raise, with Thomas averaging $14.3 million over the first three years, and as noted, it seems unlikely the Ravens would get out of it before the final year.
So is that a deal the Seahawks could ever have stomached?
The guess here is no — or, maybe more accurately, not at any time when Thomas would have considered it.
It’s worth remembering Thomas began making allusions to being unhappy with his second Seahawks contract from almost the minute he signed it.
Thomas signed his contract extension on April 28, 2014, a deal that made him both the highest-paid safety in the NFL and the highest-paid Seahawk.
Barely a week later, Richard Sherman also got a new deal, also for four years, but for $57.4 million and $40 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid corner in the NFL and the highest-paid player on the team (Russell Wilson would eclipse them both a year later).
The Seahawks were simply paying what the market dictated to each player.
But that seemed to always gnaw a bit at Thomas, that in any way his value to the Seattle defense and the Legion of Boom could be measured as not only less than anyone else’s but not more than everyone else’s.
On the day he signed his deal Thomas made clear he thought he was the straw that stirred the LOB’s drink.
“People always say how come Seattle can have fifth-round or sixth-round corners and they can have so much success?’’ Thomas said. “Well 2-9 (his jersey number). It’s right here. I’m pushing that thing. I’m dead serious. I say that as humbly as possible, though.’’
And asked once in 2017, before Kenny Easley was inducted into the Hall of Fame, if he thought safeties got the credit they deserved as a position group in the NFL, Thomas talked of Seattle’s scheme and said “the safeties kind of get overlooked. The corners get paid all the money. We are kind of the stepbrother.’’
Thomas wanted his next contract to make a statement, to make him not only the highest-paid safety in the NFL and the highest-paid defensive player on the Seahawks, but also among the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL. The NFL Network reported this week that Dallas sources said the Cowboys were saying Thomas was asking for $15 million a year for two years. That’s consistent with what sources have said Thomas likely wanted from Seattle, if not hoping for more.
Thomas was also hoping for it on the same time frame as before — in the spring before the final year of his contract.
But by then, the Seahawks were changing course on how they were handling extensions.
In the 2013-17 glory days of the LOB-led Seahawks, Seattle routinely gave extensions to players entering the final year of their deals, but held firm on never doing so with players who had two years left (that’s what led to the stalemate with Kam Chancellor in 2015 when Chancellor held out despite having two years left — same with Marshawn Lynch in 2014. Each eventually got new deals before the final years of their contracts).
But following the 2017 season — in the wake of a 9-7 non-playoff season that caused the team to undergo a personnel “reset’’ and the disastrous third contract to Chancellor, who suffered a career-ending injury that November — the Seahawks veered from that strategy.
The first indication of that came at the NFL combine in 2018 when Seattle general manager John Schneider said the precedents for second contracts didn’t apply for thirds — in other words, they were just fine with Thomas playing out the final year of his deal and seeing what happens (as they also did with linebacker K.J. Wright).
That was already after Thomas muddied the water with his “come get me’’ stunt at Dallas on Christmas Eve 2017.
There are no indications the two sides ever did any serious negotiating before the 2018 season, with Schneider telling reporters that spring that the two sides had not talked since the Combine because each side knew what the other was thinking “and nothing has changed since then.’’
Thomas then turned the muddy waters into an outright bog by staying away from all voluntary team activities, then mandatory minicamp and then training camp itself. He returned to make sure he got his $500,000 a week game checks as well as finishing out his contract to assure free agency, only to suffer a season-ending broken leg in week four and then disappear — Carroll said on several occasions that he hadn’t seen Thomas and that he hadn’t been around.
Who knows how big of an impact any of that had on Seattle’s apparent lack of desire to negotiate with Thomas — his age (30 in May), having missed 22 games over the past three seasons due to injury when including playoffs and Carroll’s willingness to move on from big-name vets with the confidence he can rebuild a new core of players are likely the main factors. But the holdout and Thomas’ obvious unhappiness can’t have helped.
Sources have indicated the Seahawks and Thomas never talked contract following the 2018 season, with Thomas said to have initially been eyeing signing with the Rams before the Rams signed Eric Weddle, which then opened up Baltimore.
Thomas also may have been hoping that Dallas would come up with its offer and he could play for his childhood favorite team. When that didn’t materialize he took the best offer he had.
But all indications are Seattle was never in the picture, with no offer made to Thomas for Thomas to turn down. In fact, it’s possible there never really was any offer made to Thomas at any point over the last year or so, with Seattle sticking to its timeline of when to negotiate — after the 2018 season.
By then, neither side wanted to bother with it anymore.