Dressed early for a January practice and shouting taunts at quarterback Russell Wilson from his locker, Earl Thomas explained he was not concerned.
He was warning Wilson not to throw his way during the coming practice. Then, he was telling a reporter how his contract situation did not worry him.
In 2014, Thomas was set to enter the final year of his five-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The end of his contract — along with that of cornerback Richard Sherman — loomed over the organization.
“Why stress it when you know it’s coming?” Thomas said then. “You just focus on what’s in front of you right now. It’s already been taken care of. Your play is going to speak for itself. They already know how valuable you are to the team and what you bring. Those numbers don’t lie.”
Not worrying about it was the right route.
Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension that can keep him with the Seahawks through 2018. Of that, $27.725 million is reportedly guaranteed. The deal makes Thomas the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
Thomas, 24, has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls, plus three consecutive All-Pro teams as a free safety. He might be the most amped member of the Legion of Boom, challenging the man next to him in the locker room, Sherman, for that title.
The sides reaching an agreement is not a surprise. Thomas reached a point last season where opposing offenses predicated much of their game plan on keeping the ball away from him.
According to NFLSavant.com, opposing offenses threw deep over the middle a scant 1.73 percent of the time last season and only had a 40 percent completion rate when doing so. Thomas’ 105 tackles were second on the team last season.
Thomas is slated to be paid $4.725 million this season, which is a salary cap hit of $5.473 million. According to the NFL Players’ Association, the Seahawks had $14,700,225 in cap space remaining before the deal.
The Seahawks’ offseason management of their salary cap space was designed around re-signing Thomas and Sherman, who is heading into the final year of his deal.
Thomas’ range and attitude are crucial parts to the league’s No. 1 defense. Not only is he among the fastest players in the league, but he’s also arguably the most intense.
He moved into the spotlight last year, emerging from his quieter days as a Seahawks rookie in 2010.
He is arguably the best player on the best defense in the league. He’s no longer the mistake-prone loose cannon coach Pete Carroll thought of benching or the quiet guy in a vociferous secondary.
“I want to take over,” Thomas said during the season.
This is another step toward that.