On Christmas Eve, we were talking about the arrival of Santa and the potential departure of Earl Thomas instead of a surprising 21-12 Seahawks victory that kept their playoff hopes alive.
I wasn’t in Dallas, but it must have been strange to be there and hear that Thomas went into the Cowboys locker room to tell coach Jason Garrett, “If y’all get the chance, come get me.” This came from a player who is under contract through next season.
If Thomas feels unappreciated and truly wants to play for the Cowboys, I’ll give him the Cowboys part since he grew up rooting for them. But unappreciated?
His last contract, signed in 2015, made him the highest-paid free safety at the time. Plus I don’t know what you’re hearing or reading about Thomas, but every time I see his name mentioned, it’s followed by “best safety in the game” and talk of him being a future Hall of Famer.
I love the guy for saying what’s on his mind and being as candid as he is. But in this instance, he needs work on his timing. His team just won a big game and he’s going into the opposing locker room saying he thinks his team is going to eventually “kick him to the curb.” If he’s right and they do “kick him to the curb,” it’s because they don’t think the value in paying him $14 million a year is worth it for a player who will turn 29 in 2018.
He’s certainly been great to this point, but you don’t pay a player for what he’s done, you pay him for what you expect to get from him in the future. Plus I don’t know why he thinks he hasn’t been valued enough by the Seahawks. Don’t they typically give extensions to core players in the offseason before they enter their final year of their contract, which would be the case with Thomas once the 2017 season ends?
We got the first glimpse of his possible discontent last week after the Seahawks lost to the Rams 42-7. Thomas made what seemed to be an innocent comment, thinking that Bobby Wagner maybe should not have played because it was evident that his hamstring injury was adversely affecting his mobility. Wagner fired back on Twitter, telling Thomas he needed to quit being jealous of other people’s success.
Then that little exchange took an odd turn last week when Wagner told reporters that the two players had spoken and worked things out while Thomas said that, actually, they hadn’t talked at all.
If I’m Thomas and I really feel the way that he does, I would have contacted Garrett on my own time, in private. I’m pretty sure he could have called the Dallas Cowboys administrative office, explained to the receptionist that he’s Earl Thomas, and somehow the message would have gotten to the head coach.
Better yet, I would have bypassed Garrett and contacted Jerry Jones, or waited ’til the offseason when he’s back in Texas to have a personal visit with Garrett and Jones to gauge their interest. Even at that, the Cowboys can’t talk to players who are under contract with other teams until they’re free agents, and that won’t be the case for Thomas until the 2018 season ends.
At this point, since I’m putting myself in other people’s shoes, if I’m Seahawks general manager John Schneider, I’m trying to weigh out what I should do with Thomas in the offseason. If I pay him in the neighborhood of what he wants, I might not get a great return on my investment. If I don’t extend him, there might be weekly press conferences next year with Thomas complaining about this and that with the “unappreciated” storyline turning into an ongoing and potentially disruptive mini-series.
This is just one example of many from a Seahawks’ defense that isn’t quite as good as it used to be because of players who are aging and thinking more about “me” instead of “us.”
When Thomas put himself ahead of the team on Sunday, he picked a time when he should have been talking about the defense coming together to post one of its best performances of the year. If it weren’t for the defense coming up with three turnovers, including a pick-six by Justin Coleman, the playoff possibilities would have ended because the offense never got much of anything going. But Thomas was in the spotlight for other reasons.
On a personal level, I’d like to see Thomas play his entire career with the Seahawks. Then someday he’d be in the Ring of Honor, have his number retired and enter the Hall of Fame. On a business level, that rarely happens in the NFL. You have to cut bait with even your finest players if they’re not franchise quarterbacks. If paying $14 million a year is what it takes to keep Thomas, I think the Seahawks would be better off putting that money into the offensive line.
As much as the defense gets all of the credit for Sunday’s win, the Seahawks aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs with an offense that can’t run the ball or protect Russell Wilson. If he gets hurt, it doesn’t matter how good your free safety is – you’re not going to the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback taking the snaps.
The week ahead should be filled with optimism and chatter about a win over Arizona coupled with an Atlanta loss to Carolina putting the Seahawks in the playoffs for the sixth straight year. There will be some of that, but reaction to Thomas’ comments will be front and center too, an unnecessary distraction for a team that’s fighting to stay alive.