Seattle Seahawks

No Earl Thomas, as expected. But that’s not all Seahawks have going on as camp begins

Six-time Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas posted on his Instgram account online Wednesday morning he is ending his holdout and reporting to the Seahawks.
Six-time Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas posted on his Instgram account online Wednesday morning he is ending his holdout and reporting to the Seahawks. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

They’re back.

We’ll almost all of them are back.

Earl Thomas is not back with the Seahawks. To no one’s surprise, all indications were the three-time All-Pro safety did not report on time for training camp with his teammates Wednesday at team headquarters. He still wants a top-level extension beyond this final year of his contract, a deal his only NFL team is not offering.

The team did not allow media access on reporting day, as usual. It did not return requests for confirmation Thomas was not there Wednesday.

Thomas vowed online last month he would not participate in “any team activities until my contract situation is resolved.”

So how long will Thomas hold out?

As long as he feels his principle is worth the money he stands to lose. Daily.

Thomas missing Thursday’s first practice of camp will subject him to a $40,000 fine. That’s the penalty possible for each day of camp he stays away. After five days and $200,000, the Seahawks can also per the league’s collective bargaining agreement fine Thomas another $285,000. That’s 15 percent of his signing bonus proration of $1.9 million for 2018. Seattle can also fine him an additional 1 percent, or $19,000, per day beyond that, up to an additional maximum of 25 percent or $475,000 if his holdout extends another 25 days beyond next week.

So Thomas could lose more than $1 million if he stays away through the third preseason game Aug. 24 at Minnesota. The third of four exhibitions is the final “dress rehearsal” for veteran starters before the games get real Sept. 9 at Denver.

Just because the Seahawks can fine Thomas for blowing off camp doesn’t mean they ultimately will. But once the regular season begins, Thomas would absolutely lose big bucks if he stays away.

If Thomas decides to remain steadfast past that season opener in seeking as much he can get as soon as he can get it and not returning until he does, he will lose $500,000 in weekly game checks. Those aren’t fines. That half a million per week is 1/17th of his base salary of $8.5 million for the coming regular season. This is the final year of the four-year, $40 million extension he signed in 2014 with Seattle. At the time it was the NFL’s richest contract for a safety.

Thomas wants to stay paid at that level. He has said he’s been eying the extension of $13 million per year with $40 million guaranteed his 2010 draft classmate Eric Berry got from the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

“There ain’t never enough of that,” Thomas said last summer, talking about Berry’s deal.

The Seahawks have already had enough of that.

This time last year they decided to give Thomas’ partner on the league’s highest-paid safety tandem $25 million guaranteed. Kam Chancellor was 29 then, as Thomas is now. Three months later Chancellor got a career-ending neck injury. The Seahawks still owe Chancellor $12 million guaranteed this year and next, even though he won’t be playing.

An unsubstantiated report from a television and radio host out of Thomas’ native Texas on Tuesday said Thomas was selling his Seattle-area home, and that Thomas went up to Raiders owner Mark Davis in Las Vegas recently and “told him to come get him” in a trade.

On Wednesday, Thomas’ agent David Mulugheta responded to NBCDFW’s Newy Scruggs on Twitter: “Don’t let the truth get in your way...”

And so it goes...

As for those who reported to camp Wednesday and will practice Thursday, there are three pressing issues for the Seahawks to accomplish in the 14 days before the preseason opener Aug. 9 against Indianapolis at CenturyLink Field.

These are in addition to ongoing needs that will likely take all of August to settle: Russell Wilson meshing with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer; finding a lead running back between Chris Carson and rookie first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny; and the competitions at punter between rookie draft pick Michael Dickson and 36-year-old Jon Ryan plus at placekicker with 40-year-old Sebastian Janikowski against Jason Myers, 27:

1. Get indications whether Brandon Marshall will not just make the team but be the big, physical No.-2 wide receiver the offense needs.

Marshall, 34, is coming off toe and ankle surgeries. He played just five games in his only season with the New York Giants last year. The owner of six 100-catch seasons in his 12-year career, Marshall had a career-low 18 receptions in 2017. The six-time Pro Bowl receiver acknowledged when Seattle signed him to a low-risk, one-year contract worth the veteran minimum of $1.1 million that the rest of the NFL had given up on him.

“I think the sentiment around the league is that I’m done,” he said.

Marshall did not participate in June offseason practices or veteran minicamp. For the latter he was back home in Florida recuperating. He may not be full go to begin camp Thursday. But the sooner Marshall gets on the field to prove whether he does indeed still have anything left the more likely the 6-foot-5, 229-pound veteran will be the tall and physical receiver coach Pete Carroll loves. Seattle already has the shifty, sub-6-foot skills of No.-1 receiver Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Marshall could be the masher, just physically bigger than the men covering him.

The first two weeks of camp will give an indication how likely that is for Marshall in Seattle in 2018.

“We need to do a really good job as we re-introduce him back into our tempo and speed and all that, that we don’t overdo it early in the excitement to see what he can do and all,” Carroll said. “He brings a real savvy and experience that we’re anxious to see how it fits. It’s going to be another guy in the competition that brings some uniqueness to us.

“Very big-statured kid, different than some of the other guys.”

2 . Find out if Tedric Thompson can play free safety in the NFL—and, if need be, whether Maurice Alexander can start at strong safety.

With Thomas holding out, Thompson’s time is right now.

The Seahawks drafted the reputed cover man out of Colorado in the fourth round last year. He was basically a special-teams player while Thomas started at free safety in 2017. In the two games Thomas missed because of injury in early November, Bradley McDougald started at free safety. That was right before Chancellor got hurt. Then McDougald became the starting strong safety for the rest of last season while Thomas returned to free safety.

The Seahawks re-signed McDougald, 27, to a three-year, $13.95 million contract this spring because they love he can start at either safety spot. He has started 45 NFL games the last four seasons, and says he prefers strong safety. With Chancellor now essentially retired and the assumption Thomas will come back eventually, strong safety looks to be McDougald’s job to win over former Los Angeles Rams starting safety Maurice Alexander and Delano Hill, the 2017 third-round pick who is also unproven.

Tellingly, McDougald said last month he expects to begin the season Sept. 9 at Denver as the strong safety. That assumes Thomas has lost enough in fine money by then to return to play free safety.

Alexander didn’t practice this offseason after he signed as a free agent in March, because of a shoulder injury. He He started 14 of 16 games in 2016 and the first four games of 2017 as the Rams’ strong safety. Then Los Angeles left him inactive though healthy for the Seahawks’ win over the Rams in L.A., and waived him days later last October. Rookie John Johnson took his place, in the final season of Alexander’s rookie contract, while Alexander played for no one the final three months of 2017.

“Mo Alexander is an interesting kid for us to see,” Carroll said. “We haven’t seen anything from him yet on the field, so that’ll be one of the guys.”

If Alexander performs strongly in the opening weeks of camp, McDougald could go back to free safety for the absent Thomas.

If Alexander doesn’t take advantage of his chance, the door could be open for Thompson at free safety—at least until Thomas eventually shows up.

3. See whether recovering George Fant is ready to possibly challenge Germain Ifedi as the starting right tackle.

Fant was on the field watching offseason practices, 10 months after reconstructive knee surgery ended his chance to be the starting left tackle before it really began.

Now Fant is back, likely easing into full participation the first couple weeks of camp. After his injury the Seahawks traded with Houston for 32-year-old, four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. Brown is back to be the left tackle again. So Fant moves to Ifedi’s right side.

The sooner Fant gets to full go, the sooner he can begin challenging Ifedi, who has struggled in his two seasons since Seattle drafted him in the first round.

“Of course George is a big deal, too, to see him get back out there,” Carroll said.

Last season Ifedi was slow off the snap against speedy edge rushers and was the league’s most penalized player. New line coach Mike Solari doesn’t have the loyalty of having drafted Ifedi with a top pick, as predecessor Tom Cable had.

“Germain, he’s working his way back. ...He’s working and he’s competing, and he’s trying to get the technique and fundamentals down,” Solari said. “A big man like that, the key thing is leverage, being able to bend your knees. Sometimes as a big offensive linemen, you get a little bit sloppy and rely on strength, and you don’t bend and play with leverage. This game’s about leverage. Guys are so quick, you have to have your knees bent so you can react and adjust off of movement, and things you need to do at the second level.”

So the offensive line may not be as set as many believe it is entering what will be a Seahawks training camp full of new.

And of questions.

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