By Danny O’Neil
The Seahawks didn’t think they were going to land Earl Thomas.
In fact, general manager John Schneider had already arranged a fallback option in case they didn’t.
Except this story has nothing to do with the extension Thomas has agreed to with the Seahawks and everything to do to how highly they regarded him four years ago in the draft.
Schneider didn’t think the Seahawks were going to be able to draft Thomas with the 14th pick in 2010. Not after the Eagles traded up, acquiring the 13th pick to sneak in front of Seattle. Philadelphia had lost safety Brian Dawkins earlier that year, and when the Eagles traded up, Schneider was fairly certain they were making that move for the free safety from Texas who had a center fielder’s range but was not yet the legal drinking age. If the Eagles had picked Thomas, the Seahawks were trading back in the first round, but once Philadelphia went with Brandon Graham out of Michigan, Seattle chose the player who would become a cornerstone of its defense.
Thomas was the one player Seattle would stay put for at No. 14, and one of two players the Seahawks don’t want to let go anywhere next year. But before we get to the other one of Seattle’s extension imperatives, it’s important to pause to acknowledge just how much Thomas means to Seattle. That’s true for how Thomas plays, a safety with true sideline-to-sideline range, and it’s also true for how he prepares, one of the guys who treats every practice as a competition.
Thomas in many ways serves as the heartbeat for Seattle’s defense, and his extension – first reported by the league’s official website – is expected to pay him $40 million over four years. He’s worth every penny.
Coach Pete Carroll has been around a fair number of incredible safeties. In fact, it’s the one position that has been consistently excellent whether it was Joey Browner with the Vikings back when Carroll was an assistant under Jerry Burns, Lawyer Milloy making his first Pro Bowl for Carroll in New England or Troy Polamalu playing his way into a first-round pick while playing for Carroll at USC.
Carroll said he has never coached anyone better than Thomas, and while that’s not the same thing as saying Thomas is the best, it’s as high of a praise as Carroll can offer. Adding four more seasons beyond the final year of Thomas’ rookie contract puts Seattle one signature away from a truly remarkable offseason.
That would be Richard Sherman, who like Thomas could be considered the best player at his position in the entire NFL. Sherman doesn’t have a deal with the Seahawks, and with Thomas’ agreement, extending the All-Pro cornerback is the last thing Seattle needs to assure itself a winning offseason.
That might sound strange considering the fact the draft is still more than a week away, and Terrelle Pryor was Seattle’s most significant acquisition from another team since the new league year began, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
The Seahawks entered the 2013 offseason intent on making additions, first in the trade for Percy Harvin and then with the free-agent additions of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. This season, Seattle sought to avoid subtraction, and while the Seahawks did lose Golden Tate to Detroit, the re-signing of Michael Bennett and extension of Thomas might be more important than any addition they could have made.
After all, Thomas was so good the Seahawks didn’t even think they’d be in position to draft him four years ago.