One week into his holdout from Seahawks training camp, Earl Thomas is reminding everyone why he’s not here.
The All-Pro free safety typed a missive that appeared online on The Players’ Tribune website Thursday explaining why he is remaining away on principle while 89 of his teammates grind into the second week of their preseason workouts and meetings at team headquarters.
“I’m standing strong when it comes to getting what I deserve,” Thomas wrote in his self-titled article “Here’s What’s Actually Going On.”
“Right away, I want to make something clear: I don’t like doing this kind of stuff,” Thomas wrote.
“If you’re risking your body to deliver all of this value to an organization, then you deserve some sort of assurance that the organization will take care of you if you get hurt. It’s that simple.” Thomas wrote. “This isn’t new, and this isn’t complicated. It’s the reason I’m holding out — I want to be able to give my everything, on every play, without any doubt in my mind.
“And it’s the reason why I’m asking the Seahawks to do one of two things:
“Offer me an extension.
“Or trade me to a team that wants me to be part of their future.”
Thomas’ online screed appeared two days after coach Pete Carroll was asked if the Seahawks have had any communication since training camp began a week ago Thursday, the day Thomas began to be subject to daily fines of $40,000 for missing it.
“No,” Carroll said, flatly.
Thursday offered indications of the same status quo: No Seahawks communications or new negotiations with Thomas.
Now that his holdout has passed five days and $200,000 in potential daily fines, 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.
Though none of what Thomas wrote Thursday was news to the Seahawks—Thomas and his representatives have assuredly told the team what they want and why they want it—there is a fundamental disconnect between the Seahawks not communicating with Thomas while Thomas is communicating online with the rest of us. It hints to the extent of the impasse that for now has no end in sight.
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 continue his hold out if he doesn’t get a new contract, or if Seattle doesn’t trade him. His current deal ends following the 2018 season.
“In the NFL, no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve accomplished, teams are constantly reminding you that you don’t matter,” Thomas wrote.
“I still remember back when (Pro Bowl middle linebacker) Lofa Tatupu was the heart of our defense (from 2005 through Thomas’ rookie season of 2010). Lofa was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. He was great to learn from as a young player. He made all the calls and always stepped up to make big plays. He was just straight up good at his job.
“And what did he get for all of that? After his sixth season with the team, they asked him to take a pay cut. When he said no, he was released.
“That kind of shook me—but it was also a good lesson of how, at any given time, a team can refuse to honor your contract and get rid of you. So no matter how much you like a team or you care about the game, you have to look out for yourself when it comes to the business end of things.
“Just look at what happened last season.”
Thomas then referenced his Pro Bowl mates in Seattle’s former “Legion of Boom” secondary, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, and the game at Arizona Nov. 9 in which both sustained season-ending injuries. That was the last game Sherman and Chancellor played for the Seahawks. They waived Sherman with a failed-physical designation this spring to avoid paying him $11 million. Chancellor essentially retired because of a career-ending neck injury, though he remains on the team’s roster inactive to collect the $12 million guaranteed the Seahawks owe to him this year and next.
“We played a Thursday night game against the Cardinals in November. Those games are always tough in terms of injuries because of the quick turnaround … but man, even still,” Thomas wrote. “There wasn’t one person in the stadium who would have guessed that that game might be the last time Richard and Kam would play for the Seahawks.
“I’ll never forget being on the sideline when Sherm went down. He was in Cover 2 on a routine dig route. It’s something I’ve watched him do a million times, really basic coverage. But on this particular play, for whatever reason, his Achilles gave out.
“Later on, Kam walked off the field and he said he had a funny feeling in his neck. Just a funny feeling—and, man, Kam is a warrior. A warrior. We’ve been through a lot together. So of course I thought he’d be fine. But then after the game, it’s crazy... he found out the injury was career-threatening. A few weeks ago, he announced his retirement.
“Just like that.”
And that is why Thomas is demanding all he can get, what he feels he deserves, now. While he is still healthy enough to earn it.
Of course, that is why the Seahawks aren’t willing to pay Thomas at the top of the NFL’s pay scale for safeties, around $13 million per year with $40 million guaranteed (the deal Thomas’ draft classmate Eric Berry got as the safety for the Kansas City Chiefs last year). Not that kind of money through Thomas’ 33rd or 34th birthday. Thomas is the same age, 29, that Chancellor was when he signed that contract extension 12 months ago with $25 million guaranteed. The Seahawks are still paying $12 million to Chancellor, and he can’t play.
“The last contract I signed with Seattle, I did it with the Legion of Boom in mind,” Thomas said, with the obvious inference the extension he is seeking now is entirely with himself in mind.
Thing is, the Seahawks aren’t going to pay Thomas past 2018 with the “Legion of Boom” in mind, either. That era is over. Thomas isn’t 25 anymore. Sherman and Chancellor aren’t here anymore. Seattle isn’t coming off a Super Bowl championship on its away to another Super Bowl anymore, as it was the month it re-signed Thomas the last time for top-of-the-NFL riches.
Thus, the impasse continues.