At an obvious impasse in talks with the Seahawks, Earl Thomas is going so 2018 in his search for new, big bucks.
To his Instagram page.
The three-time All-Pro safety posted on one of his social-media accounts a picture of him working out eight days before training camp begins. The picture came with a caption, which was more an online ultimatum than a description.
“Extend,” Thomas wrote on his Instagram page,“ .....if you don’t want me let’s make a trade happen I understand it’s a bizz”
Thomas skipped all of the Seahawks’ offseason workouts—the voluntary ones, plus last month’s mandatory minicamp at the risk of an $84,435 team fine—while wanting a top-of-the-market extension on his contract. His deal with Seattle ends following this year. The six-time Pro Bowl selection signed a four-year, $40 million extension in 2014 to become the league’s highest-paid safety at the time. He is vowing to hold out through the start of training camp next week if he doesn’t get a new contract.
Coach Pete Carroll said last month at the end of offseason workouts the Seahawks would continue to talk to Thomas about a new contract over these six weeks between the minicamp and the start of training camp. That is July 26 at team headquarters in Renton.
“Our guys are working,” Carroll said. “We are at work. We’re busy,” on the Thomas issue.
The coach last month changed his tone and words when asked if he expected Thomas to be on the field when the Seahawks begin the season Sept. 9 at Denver.
“We’ll see,” Carroll said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Before that, Carroll had been saying he expected Thomas at all mandatory team events because he is under contract.
The prospect of Seattle trading its starring safety for the last eight years intensified around the draft in April. Thomas’ home state Dallas Cowboys were among the teams interested. But the Seahawks’ price tag of multiple top-round draft choices, believed to be at least a first- and a third-round pick for Thomas, kept those trade talks from becoming substantive.
The complicating factor for any team wanting to trade for Thomas: the immediate need to meet his salary demands now, on a multi-year deal that would likely last until Thomas was at least 33.
The most likely scenario remains an unhappy Thomas returning, eventually, to the Seahawks to play out the final year of his contract. Thomas stands to lose more than $1 million in fines if he stays away from all of training camp through August. He’s scheduled to earn $8 million in base pay in 2018.
If Thomas were to hold out past the seventh game of the regular season, his contract will “toll,” meaning it wouldn’t count for this year and he would not be eligible for free agency next spring.
That’s not going to happen.
So unless the Seahawks up their offer, to the top of the NFL’s pay scale for safeties, unless Thomas lowers his price for 2019 and beyond, or unless another team offers far more than it has yet to trade for Thomas, he will be playing for the Seahawks in 2018. Eventually. And unhappily. The team that has him under its contract has the ultimate leverage here.
In the meantime, Thomas is trying to gain some leverage online, at least in public opinion.
Thomas has said he wants to remain with Seattle, the only NFL team he’s known.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said the team’s precedent of signing core players to extensions before their current deals end apply only to second contracts, and not to Thomas in this case because he is seeking a third contract with Seattle.
The last time the Seahawks gave a lucrative third deal to a foundational player was 11 months ago. Strong safety Kam Chancellor got $15 million guaranteed—and then a career-ending neck injury three months later. The Seahawks still owe Chancellor $12 million guaranteed this year and next, even though he won’t be playing.
They want no part of that sunk cost with another star.
Yet there’s a flip side: players needing to get all they can, while they can, in a business and career that can end for them on one play.
Thomas will turn 30 five months after the 2018 season ends. Any new contract he’ll be even remotely interested in signing, from the Seahawks or anyone else, is likely to be at least three years. That is so his signing team can prorate the bonus money across multiple years, to make that sum more friendly to its salary cap up front.
Such a deal would take Thomas to his 33rd birthday. No matter how well he continues to play between now and then, no team is likely to give him, say, the $13 million per year with $40 million guaranteed on which Thomas has his eyes now. That’s the deal his 2010 draft classmate Eric Berry got from Kansas City last year.
Thomas said last August: “I saw Eric Berry get that huge deal. There ain’t never enough of that.”
Carroll said in June he last talked to Thomas “a couple weeks ago.” Carroll said the team had a heads-up Thomas would be skipping last month’s minicamp, before Thomas decreed that with an online letter.
Carroll, asked in June if Thomas was still dedicated to the Seahawks’ program, replied:
“Heck, yeah,” Carroll said. “Yeah. He’s under contract. Sure.”
Is Thomas, to use Carroll’s favorite phrase, still all in if he’s not here?
“Yeah, Earl doesn’t know any other way,” Carroll said. “He gives you everything he’s got, when he’s with you.”
That “when” remains an “if.”
Thomas said at his sixth Pro Bowl in January he may hold out into the season if he doesn’t get a new deal by then. In April at his annual charity dinner in Bellevue, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Thomas’ representatives told him in March that Thomas will not hold out this season.
Now, a week before training camp, Thomas is using social media to demand a new deal or a trade.
In lieu of that, there’s not much more he can do.
Except eventually return to the Seahawks.