One down, two to go.
By getting free safety Earl Thomas locked up with a new contract early, the Seattle Seahawks are getting a jump on the obvious goal of securing the services of other franchise cornerstone players Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.
If the other two awaiting big paydays were leery about the Hawks’ willingness to fork over top dollar, Thomas’ contract numbers should put concerns to rest.
Reports from around the league on Monday contend Thomas’ deal calls for four years at $40 million, with more than $27 million guaranteed.
It is further evidence of the blueprint of general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. Draft smart, develop your own talent, and do everything you can to keep the players who help you win games.
The deal makes Thomas the best-paid safety in the NFL — an honor he absolutely deserves. And by the end of the contract, it may look like a bargain.
During the salary-cap era, franchises have had to face the reality that nobody is irreplaceable. But Thomas is darn close to that.
He doesn’t turn 25 years old until next week, and he’s already got three Pro Bowls to his credit. Although a modest 5-foot-10, 202 pounds, he hasn’t missed a game to injury in four seasons.
While many stories detail the work ethic, long hours at the headquarters and dedicated film study of quarterback Wilson, Thomas is the defensive equivalent.
Earlier in his career, he was asked of the roots of his workman-like approach.
“It started with my dad, in simple ways,” he said. “Making me get out and cut grass to try to help get money for the family because we weren’t that well off; getting up every morning and going to work. Now its wanting to find more and more and more about the game. I just love it so much. You study hard during the week, then you’re going to grade out high every time on Sundays.”
It has been the way Thomas has gone from being a physical phenom, who occasionally missed plays because of his aggressiveness, to a player who can apply his speed more effectively because of his understanding of everybody’s role.
Thomas plays deep and has the jets to erase mistakes made by the other 10 defenders. He covers ground with a turbo-burst that fellow safety Kam Chancellor said makes him look like the spinning Tasmanian Devil.
Of the Legion of Boom, Thomas is the head Legionnaire.
The Seahawks started nibbling away at important contracts last offseason, when they redid the deal for Chancellor. By doing so, they may have saved a lot of money as Chancellor this season went from a starter with promising potential to the most impressive big-hitting, big-play strong safety in the league.
Sherman, meanwhile, will expect and deserve a contract worthy of his All-Pro status, and consideration as the best cornerback in the game.
And Wilson, with a Super Bowl in just his second season and his station as the face of the franchise for now and into the future, will require a contract that reaches up into the elite range.
But Thomas’ deal was such an important start.
This man lives for his job.
Two seasons ago, his daughter, Kaleigh Rose, was about to arrive on a Monday night when the Seahawks were playing Green Bay at home. Thomas decided he needed to be at the game rather than the hospital.
He explained that the mother had family in town to help, and he promised to race over as soon as the game was over.
“Everybody knows I wanted to be there,” he said later that season. “But I was focused because I feel like I’m playing for more than myself. I’m playing for my family playing to keep food on the table.”
Monday’s agreement should take care of Kaleigh Rose’s food for a long time. And make certain that her dad stays in Seattle as she grows.