Seahawks reporter Bob Condotta opens up his mailbag to answer questions on the fate of Earl Thomas and which receiver could emerge as an unexpected contributor.
The fate of Earl Thomas and the potential composition of the receiving corps are the topics in our latest mailbag.
A: You’ve summarized much of the dilemma pretty well there. As for an answer for how this will all turn out, I don’t think anyone really knows.
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Thomas has obviously been taking steps toward potentially holding out by having skipped mandatory minicamp in June, for which he could be fined $84,435 (fines are at team discretion and often waived when a player reports or signs a new deal). The potential fines stiffen for training camp — $40,000 for every day missed as well as potentially taking up to 25 percent of his signing bonus (something I detailed here in June).
I think at the moment the team is willing to play Thomas’ bluff and see if he is really willing to hold out — there is no indication that there have been any contracts talks between the two sides since the Combine, when Seattle general manager John Schneider met with Thomas’ representatives. It’s unclear if a formal offer was even made then, with Schneider later saying that the meeting let Thomas’ people “know where we are at.”
And as I wrote last week, the news that Kam Chancellor likely won’t play again isn’t thought to change anything since the team has been operating for months on the idea that Chancellor won’t be around this season.
While, as noted, teams can waive fines, or fine some but not all of the amount that they can fine, the Seahawks would likely play hardball with Thomas on this one and see if he’s really willing to give up what would be a substantial amount of money if he held out into the regular season (if he missed games he would give up checks of $500,000 per week, or 1/17th of his $8.5 million salary for every game missed).
The Seahawks appear more than willing to hang on to Thomas for this season and see what happens and assume that they could get as much as a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2020 if he were to sign elsewhere next spring.
That Thomas could lose a lot of money has led to rumblings he may well show up, though probably not all that happily.
The Seahawks, though, don’t appear too worried about an unhappy Thomas. For one, they know he’d have to play well to show he’s still worthy of the kind of contract he wants. They also are thought not too worried about how his unhappiness would impact a locker room that has had heavy leadership turnover this offseason in part because Thomas has never really been regarded as an especially vocal locker room presence (he’s never been voted a defensive team captain, for instance).
Still, it’s no secret the Seahawks have been willing this offseason to get rid of anybody, and also have seemed eager to let some fresh voices and personalities take the lead going forward.
If the Seahawks get the right kind of offer for Thomas from Dallas or someone else — at least a second-rounder would likely do it — I think they’d jump on that.
But whether the offers will get better now is another matter. Any team wanting to trade for Thomas faces the same issue Seattle does now — that he is entering the last year of his contract and appears to want a deal that would reach $13-14 million a season that would begin as he turns 30 years old. That’s why Dallas remains the leader in the clubhouse as a potential suitor since it’s obvious Thomas would like to play there and he might be more amenable to helping out the Cowboys some.
In other words, things appear to still be pretty much where they have been for a while now. I think the next step is for the beginning of training camp to roll around on July 26 and see if Thomas shows up. That may tell a lot about where things go.
A: I agree that Seattle’s receiving corps seems on paper like one of the team’s bigger question marks heading into camp, with Doug Baldwin a totally sure thing, Tyler Lockett having a pretty good track record when healthy and then a lot of unknowns — can Jaron Brown, who has averaged 17.2 receptions in his five NFL seasons, become the kind of third receiver Seattle thinks he can be? Can Brandon Marshall shake off age and injury to approach his past All-Pro form and maybe give the Seahawks more than they expected when signing him to a one-year, low-risk deal in May?
Aside from those four no other receiver on the roster has more than eight receptions in a season, those coming last season from Amara Darboh in his rookie year.
So yes, the Seahawks could definitely be depending on a few receivers to make a major step forward as contributors this season. One caveat is that the Seahawks also sound as if they’ll use their tailbacks a lot more as receivers this season and players such as C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic and even first-round pick Rashaad Penny could line up as receivers quite a bit, potentially minimizing the role of the actual receivers at the lower end of the roster.
Still, I think Seattle keeps at least five players listed as receivers. Baldwin and Lockett are locks and Brown probably is, too. Marshall is the real wild card. But if he shows much of anything in training camp you’d imagine he also makes the roster. That could leave the rest of the 12 receivers on the roster battling for one or two spots.
As of today, I think Darboh and 2017 seventh-round pick David Moore would have the edge on the other one or two spots.
But if there’s a player I think could emerge as an “unexpected contributor” I’d go with Marcus Johnson, who was acquired by the Seahawks from the Eagles in the Michael Bennett trade.
The 6-1, 204-pounder has a decent chance to make the final roster for special teams alone — he’s regarded as having the kind of speed and ability that could allow him to make a real impact as a gunner. Some around the team have compared him to Ricardo Lockette, and it’s also worth remembering Jeremy Lane— who always thrived in that role regardless of where he stood as a cornerback — is also no longer on the roster.
Johnson also has the kind of speed to stretch the field, something the Seahawks need more of after losing Paul Richardson in free agency. He also seemed to establish something of a rapport with Russell Wilson as the offseason program wore on.
The one caveat is that Johnson hasn’t done a whole lot so far in his NFL career, with just five catches on eight targets in 10 games and 146 snaps for the Eagles last season.
But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll sounded like he liked a lot of what he saw out of Johnson at the end of minicamp.
“Marcus has been really impressive,” Carroll said then. “He’s really fast. He and Tyler are probably the two fastest guys we have but you can see he’s real fast and he weighs 210 pounds or something like that so he’s a unique athlete. He’s been really impressive in drills. He hasn’t done a lot of playing so we have to get him on the field, see what he can do in camp and see where he fits. Special teams guys are excited about him too because he’s strong and fast and all that. He’s really a dedicated worker and all that. It’s just one of the stories from camp that’s going to be fun to see.”