Seattle Seahawks

Does Earl Thomas' holdout increase chance Seahawks trade him? What's next in the standoff?

As he begins the second week of his holdout from Seahawks training camp, All-Pro safety Earl Thomas goes online again, this time to explain why he is staying away.
As he begins the second week of his holdout from Seahawks training camp, All-Pro safety Earl Thomas goes online again, this time to explain why he is staying away. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

So much for that energy and "newness" Pete Carroll said he's been seeing from his Seahawks.

Unless the coach wants to count Earl Thomas' decree in all that is new for Seattle this tumultuous offseason.

That's unlikely, now that Thomas has declared he's not rejoining his Seahawks until for their mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday nor for "any team activities until my contract situation is resolved."

So now what?

The Seahawks trading their six-time Pro Bowl free safety and franchise cornerstone for the last seven years is back in play.

Put another way: Thomas' edict Sunday didn't decrease his chances of getting traded.

That's not to say Seattle and general manager John Schneider will do that deal. Or that the only NFL team Thomas has ever known would get anything above what its believed to have already been offered for him, anyway. That's a third-round draft choice, by Dallas just before the draft in late April. The Seahawks aren't going to trade him for that. They could keep Thomas through his contract that ends after the 2018 season then let him leave next spring in free agency and get that; a third-round pick would be possible compensation for losing Thomas to someone else in free agency.

Now that this year's draft in which the Seahawks lacked second- and third-round choices has passed, the return for a possible trade of Thomas to help this transitioning team right now would have to include a starting player, most fittingly a defensive back or a pass rusher. That's a steep price for an acquiring team that also would need to meet Thomas' numbers on an extension beyond this season, to keep him from being merely a rental player for a few months before free agency next spring.

The Seahawks must decide how much if any to budge on their stance about Thomas getting a new contract at the Eric Berry, top-of-the-NFL money Thomas wants beyond his current deal that ends after the 2018 season. He is entering the final year of the four-year, $40 million extension he signed in 2014, one that made him the league's highest-paid safety at the time.

Now 29 with three All-Pro selections, a Super Bowl ring and possibly a path to Canton and enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, Thomas wants to stay at the top of the NFL's pay scale at his position.

Schneider said in late April he last met with Thomas' representatives about a new contract in early March, at the league's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“I've talked to his representatives. Yeah, I mean, that's all I can say,” Schneider said in Indiana on March 2. “Earl is under contract. I've talked to his representatives in the meetings we've had down here. We are meeting with all our guys here, as well as other teams, you know. Trying to figure out where everybody is. We have a huge map, and we're just trying to put it all together."

Recent indications from the team are there haven't been substantive talks on the matter since then.

Perhaps that's the reason for Thomas' declaration on Sunday, to increase the urgency on resuming those talks now.

Here's another: the Seahawks will practice Tuesday at minicamp with Bradley McDougald and Delano Hill as their starting safeties.

Those of you seeing them as the backbones of a playoff team's defense this year, congratulations. Stand up and be counted. All one of you.

As for the contingent out there that are yelling: Pay the man! For the love of Kenny Easley, Earl Thomas is a future Hall of Famer!: Yes, Schneider has set precedents since taking the GM job in January 2010 of re-signing Seattle's core players in the final years of their existing contracts, before those deals run out. The Seahawks did that with Thomas in April 2014, entering the final year of his rookie contract, when they gave him that four-year, $40 million deal.

But when I asked Schneider about that standard in March, the GM made it clear those precedents do not apply in this case with Thomas. That core that played in consecutive Super Bowls and won Seattle's only one in February 2014 isn't 24 and 25 years old anymore.

"Well, it's a little different. This would be his third (contract),” Schneider said.

“It's a little different situation than when you have a guy coming off his rookie deal and then you are just going on a second contract.”

That's because Thomas will turn 30 next offseason. The Seahawks just saw what can happen when you guarantee chunks of money for multi-year contracts on players that age: strong safety Kam Chancellor finally got his extension last August for which he'd futilely held out two years earlier—then got a neck injury three months later that may end his career, with the Seahawks still owing him millions.

To be sure, the Seahawks re-signed McDougald, who can start at both strong and free safety, for three years and up to $13.95 million in March knowing it's possible if not likely they may not have Chancellor or Thomas, or both, beyond 2018.

While Thomas is turning 30 next spring, the Seahawks will be tackling a $30-million-plus-per-year issue of extending franchise quarterback Russell Wilson's contract beyond 2019.

And, oh, yeah, 27-year-old, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner's four-year, $43 million extension he signed in 2015 also ends after the '19 season.

It's been clear since Seattle waived Richard Sherman and traded Michael Bennett in March, and with Cliff Avril retiring and Chancellor perhaps about to join him with his own neck injury, that this franchise's two pillars into the 2020s are Wilson on offense and Wagner on defense.

How many dollars and years does that leave an about-to-be-30-year-old Thomas?

Likely not as many as for Wilson and Wagner. And more likely not as many as Thomas wants.

For what it may now be worth: Schneider has said multiple times this offseason Thomas' representatives have assured him Thomas will not hold out into the 2018 season. But again, as of last month the Seahawks had not talked about an extension with Thomas' agents since March.

These are the reasons that increase the possibility the Seahawks don't budge and Thomas stays without a new contract into the 2018 season that begins Sept. 9 at Denver. Thomas can see that, hence the preemptive line draw in his own sand. Yes, he will remain ticked off without a new contract, or until a trade to a team that would give him such a deal.

But eventually, the leverage in these situations swings to the team. It always does. Ask Chancellor.

As of right now, Thomas has no income scheduled for beyond this year. That's life in the non-guaranteed NFL.

Holding out could cost Thomas $84,435 this week. That's the maximum the Seahawks could (but don't have to) fine him for missing the three days of minicamp, per the league's collective bargaining agreement. The next team event is reporting day for training camp, July 25. If Thomas continues to stay away beyond that day, the Seahawks could per Article 42 of the CBA fine him $40,000 per training-camp day missed.

If Thomas doesn't have a new contract, isn't traded and still hasn't reported by the first preseason game Aug. 9 that could push the fine meter to upwards of $684,000. Then Thomas could be subject to a fine of one week's regular-season salary per preseason game missed, per the CBA. That quickly would start to eat into Thomas' $8.5 million in base pay for this year.

If Thomas continues his holdout with no new contract into the regular season he would lose $500,000 per week. That's 1/17th of his base pay (16 game weeks, plus the bye week). He would also lose the weekly chance to showcase on the field with his play to the rest of the league that he is still worth the money he is seeking.

Eventually, Thomas has to return. If he doesn't before the eighth game of the regular season his contract will "toll" into 2019, meaning this last year of his deal would not count and next year would be a do-over. He's not making the money he wants doing that.

There is no reason now, in mid-June, about to enter the NFL's quietest six weeks of the year, to think Thomas' holdout will go that far. Essentially, Thomas' edict buys him (at the cost of an $84,000 fine for missing minicamp) six more weeks of leverage in trying to get a new deal.

But what Thomas' declaration does do is raise the possibility that if the Seahawks decide they aren't going to meet the price Thomas wants, he may getting that money from some other team. And sooner than later.

ROSTER MOVE

The Seahawks on Monday announced thesigning of linebacker Joshua Perry and waiving of offensive tackle Nick Callender.

Perry, 6 feet 4 and 253 pounds from Ohio State, was a fourth-round draft choice in 2016 by the Chargers in 2016. He played in 15 games for San Diego as a rookie. Last season he played in two games for Indianapolis while spending most of the year on the Colts' practice squad.

Callender signed last month after a tryout in Seattle's rookie minicamp.

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