When Earl Thomas ended his holdout in September, just five days before the Seahawks’ season opener against Denver, he wrote on Instagram:
“… the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten. Father Time may have an undefeated record but best believe I plan on taking him into triple overtime when it comes to my career.”
One thing about Earl Thomas that we should have learned during his remarkable nine-year tenure with the Seahawks: He has an unwavering belief in his abilities. And his worth.
And another thing: He’s fiercely proud, and seems to hold perceived slights deep inside his heart, for the long term.
Put that all together, and then add a mental image of Thomas flipping off the Seahawks sideline as he was carted off with a broken leg just four games into 2018.
The upshot: You can almost certainly squelch the notion that the ever-changing dynamics of NFL free agency will include a scenario that directs Thomas back into the waiting arms of the Seahawks.
Now, the market may indeed be exploding around Thomas in ways that he didn’t anticipate as the new NFL year officially begins Wednesday, and free agency launches at 1 p.m. Pacific time.
Mind you, that’s when players can actually put pen to paper. We’re already in the middle of the so-called legal tampering period, where mostly bad teams leap into the fray and reach agreements with all the caution of Dee Ford rushing Tom Brady.
Thomas has a perceived desire to be the league’s highest-paid safety, which entering free agency was Eric Berry’s $13 million a year. That amount already has been smashed by Landon Collins’ reported six-year, $84 million deal with Washington, and Tyrann Mathieu’s three-year, $42 million deal with the Chiefs. (I said mostly bad teams.)
Suddenly, the benchmark is now $14 million a year, which would be in line with reports that Thomas is seeking $15 million a year. However, it is one thing to seek, and another to receive. The question that must be asked now is whether Thomas is over-reaching, which is an easy conclusion to come to.
But again, I would urge some caution on the idea that the safety-rich free-agent market (which will be supplemented by a safety-rich draft) is passing Thomas by.
Yes, some possible landing spots may have dried up. There have been reports that the Rams had interest in Thomas before pouncing on Eric Weddle. Ditto the Texans, who apparently have reached agreement with Tashaun Gipson after losing Mathieu to the Chiefs (a team that reportedly was in trade talks with Seattle about Thomas just prior to his season-ending injury in Arizona).
But that hardly means Thomas will be left in the cold. To do free agency right sometimes involves a combination of patience, faith and daring that many players can’t muster. Thomas has those qualities in abundance. It’s just as likely that all these mega-deals embolden Thomas’s desire for a record payday, rather than discouraging them.
Thomas’s dalliance with the Cowboys is well-documented, and there is little doubt he would love to go there. Of course, it’s not that simple considering the Cowboys have their modern-day “triplets” — Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper — to eventually lock up (the latter getting more expensive after Antonio Brown’s contract with Oakland). They also wanted to retain wide receiver Cole Beasley, though he appears to have reached a deal with Buffalo.
That’s a lot on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ plate, but Thomas — particularly a motivated and happy Thomas — would be a huge boost for a Dallas team with Super Bowl aspirations. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Tuesday that the Cowboys would offer Thomas between $10 million and $11 million and “maybe” more.
Rapoport added that Earl is trying to get more loot somewhere else. Where could that be? Well, Richard Sherman told reporters at the combine that the 49ers would be a great spot for his former teammate. Considering that the Niners set all-time franchise lows last year with just two interceptions in 16 games (a total Thomas exceeded by himself in three-plus games with Seattle), San Francisco makes a lot of sense.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano threw out the Los Angeles Chargers as a dark-horse candidate after the release of Jahleel Addae. Graziano said the Chargers — whose defensive coordinator is former Seahawks DC Gus Bradley — had interest in Weddle before he went to the Rams. They could view Thomas as “the player who puts their stacked roster over the top,” Graziano said.
Other teams could come to that conclusion as well, especially as other options dry up. Rumors were flying Tuesday night that Cleveland was making a strong bid for Thomas after trading their safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants.
Despite his recent injury history, and despite the fact he’ll be 30 in May, Thomas is still an elite safety who was drawing Defensive Player of the Year buzz before he went down last year. The name Earl Thomas still means something in the NFL.
Even if Thomas has to eventually swallow his pride and take less than Collins or Mathieu, it’s still hard to see that forging a path back to Seattle. Not impossible, because desperation makes strange bedfellows, but awfully close. Remember, it takes two to tango, just like it takes two to tangle. And it’s just as possible that the Seahawks are done with this relationship as Thomas is.
It’s not that they don’t treasure his contributions, or revere his place in club lore. But as the Seahawks showed with Michael Bennett and Sherman, sometimes it’s just time to part ways.
Despite all the hue and cry, I’d still expect that outcome to become official any day now.