Yes, it was slight. It involved nuances: body language and tone.
But there was a slight change in the latest response from Pete Carroll when he was asked yet again about Earl Thomas and the All-Pro’s holdout.
Asked following Monday’s first practice of the regular season if the Seahawks and Thomas have had any new contact in any capacity, Carroll said “um” and hesitated for a second or two. The coach then gave a slight shrug and said: “Nothing to report.”
That was different than the immediate, flat “no” Carroll had been giving each time for the last month he’d been asked about Thomas, while his holdout extended through August his fines for missing training camp and the preseason surpassed $1.5 million.
Admittedly, I’m parsing words and tone and body language from the coach. That’s what this impasse between Thomas, a possible future Hall of Fame legend, and the only NFL team he’s known has become. Especially after the holdouts by fellow defensive superstars Aaron Donald with the Rams and Khalil Mack against the Raiders ended so spectacularly this past weekend.
Thomas, 29, is in the sixth week of his holdout that has no signs of ending. This is the final year of the four-year, $40 million contract he signed in 2014 to become the NFL’s highest-paid safety. He is seeking to remain among the top-paid safeties in the NFL, if not highest paid again. He has already mentioned of the $40 million guaranteed and $13 million per year his 2010 draft classmate Eric Berry got last year from Kansas City “there ain’t never enough of that.”
The Seahawks haven’t had substantial talks on a contract with Thomas on a contract since March, when general manager John Schneider talked to Thomas’ representatives while at the league’s annual scouting combine. The team is reluctant to pay top dollar to Thomas for an extension that would run until he is 33 or 34 years old. They are still paying $12 million guaranteed to Kam Chancellor, who signed his extension last summer at the same age Thomas is now then got a career-ending neck injury three months later.
Plus, Thomas is older than both Donald and Mack. Those two stars set and re-set records for guaranteed money to defensive players on consecutive days. Mack in particular plays a more coveted position than Thomas, edge pass rusher. The NFL is a passer-or-sack-the-passer league. Those who play those positions command, and can demand, the most money.
Thomas has said if the Seahawks don’t want to pay him they should trade him, “if you don’t want me let’s make a trade happen,” he wrote on Instagram in mid-July.”
The Seahawks have received interest from multiple teams regarding a potential trade of Thomas. But Seattle hasn’t received any offer near what it is seeking for a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl safety who is among the best players of his generation. That is, a first-round pick, another high-round choice and perhaps another player.
If Thomas doesn’t report by this weekend, he will forfeit the first weekly game check of the regular season. For him that’s $500,000 per game. Players have to be added to the active roster by 24 hours prior to a kickoff to be eligible to play in that week’s game.
The Seahawks open the season at Denver Sunday at 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time.
In the category of not everything that happens in life is news: Thomas landing on a flight to SeaTac Airport Monday caused an internet storm that is so 2018. Never mind that Thomas owns a home here, in Bellevue. Or that he’s lived here since the Seahawks drafted him in the first round in 2010. Or, as was reported again for a reminder on Monday, he has a daughter starting the new school year here this week.
Yes, Thomas can be in Seattle without being in contact with the Seahawks. And there remain no indications he’s about to report anytime soon.
But Carroll on Monday at least changed the way he was going about answering questions about Thomas’ absence.