With training camp near, the Seahawks and Thomas don't seem close to agreeing on a contract extension. Thomas can have the courage of his convictions and hold out, but it will be at the potential cost of millions of dollars in fines and lost game checks, not to mention valuable games.
Earl Thomas has been many things for the Seahawks in his eight seasons with Seattle – a franchise icon, a defensive force, and a tone-setter for the type of intensity that Pete Carroll covets and craves.
But now, with a critical new season dawning, one in which the Seahawks’ place in the NFL power structure is more tenuous than it has been in years, Thomas is something they really, really don’t need right now.
A distraction, with a capital D.
As if the Seahawks didn’t have enough to worry about. As if the Seahawks didn’t already have a roomful of question marks. As if they need one big, glaring headache, sucking energy from the room, as they try to prove that all the predictions of Seattle’s impending demise are greatly exaggerated.
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No, the very last thing they need, at this most delicate of junctures, is all this Earl Thomas drama hanging over their heads.
And yet, here they are. Players report on Wednesday and hit the practice field at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Thursday for the beginning of training camp. The first exhibition game is in 15 days. The regular season opens in 46 days. And, amazingly, the Seahawks are right where they were when last season ended, right where they were throughout the offseason and into mandatory minicamps last month: With Thomas’ contract situation unresolved and his future with the team very much in limbo.
Now the rumors are flying fast and furious, many coming on Tuesday via the tweets of Dallas sportscaster Newy Scruggs – that Thomas is done with the Seahawks, that’s he’s selling his home in Seattle, that he plans to hold out indefinitely, that he’s willing to be traded to the Raiders as well as the Cowboys, that he won’t budge on his demands for a reworking of his contract. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are showing no signs of acquiescing to those demands, even if it means that they will get the worst of both worlds, at least for now – no Thomas, and nothing gained in return.
The game of chicken is about to get real. This is the point in the teen flick where the two cars are rapidly approaching each other at full speed, waiting for the other to swerve off the road. Both have much to lose. Sure, Thomas can have the courage of his convictions and hold out until midseason, but it will be at the potential cost of millions of dollars in fines and lost game checks, as well the squandering of valuable games in his rapidly closing prime window that he can never get back. The Seahawks can hold strong to their company policy of not giving in to holdouts, as they showed in 2015 with Kam Chancellor, but they will leave themselves another gaping hole in the secondary, and ensure that the speculation over Thomas’ future lingers throughout camp, and perhaps beyond.
This was to be the season in which the Seahawks shed all those distractions and perceived deficiencies that plagued them in recent years, as the team’s fortunes waned in the aftermath of the bitter Super Bowl loss to New England. Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett were jettisoned, and so were offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Kris Richard, and offensive-line coach Tom Cable.
The rebuild, or re-tool, or re-structuring, call it what you wish, is in full bloom in Seattle. It is not without huge challenges and pockets of uncertainty. Where will the pass rush come from with Bennett and Cliff Avril gone? Who will replace the departed Legion of Boomers, Sherman and Chancellor? With the parting of Jimmy Graham as well, does Russell Wilson have enough targets to throw to?
The motivated presence of Thomas, still one of the game’s pre-eminent free safeties at age 29, would provide a huge boost to a team that already is counting on innumerable unproven young players to step up. Replacing that uncomfortable equation with one of the most proven veterans in the NFL at a key position would go a long way toward easing the hardship.
Yet that isn’t how it is setting up, not at all. Perhaps the arrival of a definitive date – the opening of training camp – will force some last-minute movement and easing of stances that hasn’t been apparent thus far. Perhaps a trade will emerge to allow the Seahawks to move forward gracefully, and give Thomas the new opportunity he seems to be seeking. Or maybe, miracle of miracles, they’ll reach an 11th-hour agreement on a contract extension that keeps Thomas in Seattle beyond 2018.
But that’s all a pipe dream. It looks like camp will open with a pall of uncertainty still surrounding Thomas, whose contribution to the Seahawks has been immense and immutable. But that’s the last thing that a team searching for a fresh new direction needs.