Rumors of an Earl Thomas trade have been swirling all offseason, spurred in part by Thomas’ brief visit outside the Cowboys’ locker room in December, his contract comments at the Pro Bowl, and Seattle’s drastic turnover on the roster.
But those rumors gained more traction Friday afternoon after the Cowboys’ released veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Releasing Bryant cleared $8.5 million in cap space for Dallas, which would help make some room for Thomas’ $8.5 million cap hit. That, combined with John Scheider’s offseason comments about the young defensive backs on Seattle’s roster, left 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton wondering whether the odds of an Earl Thomas trade have been enhanced.
“The fact that they did this today gives me now – I’ve been saying now all along that there’s probably five or 10 percent chance that they would trade Earl Thomas. I think this now takes it to 50 percent,” Clayton said. “I think this really increases the chances of an Earl Thomas trade.
“And here’s the reason I say that: We know that Arizona is pretty much looking for one now that they’ve let Tyrann Mathieu go. But you know the Seahawks aren’t trading him to a division team, so I take that option out. And Mathieu goes to another team desperate for free safeties in Houston. So you’ve got a couple other teams involved, but it really came down to one team, and that’s the Dallas Cowboys. The team that Earl Thomas went over to at the end of the game and yelled for Jason Garrett to come get him at some point. And so now I think the chances increase.”
Without a doubt, keeping Thomas on the roster is a boost for Seattle’s postseason odds. The six-time Pro Bowler is one of Seattle’s remaining veterans from its back-to-back Super Bowl squads and, at 28, he remains one of the best safeties in the league. Also worth noting is that ESPN’s Adam Schefter told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore in late March his understanding has been that Thomas is expected to return for 2018.
The younger players in the Seahawks’ secondary are also a factor in Clayton’s opinion. Seahawks’ general manager John Schneider recently touted Seattle’s young DBs, a group that includes Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Michael Tyson, and Shaquill Griffin.
“A (second and fourth round pick), to me, that’s got to be a consideration,” Clayton said. “I know it’s not true value for a future possible Hall of Fame safety. But also, what you have to put into the equation with this team (is what they’ve already invested). Remember, they used a third-round pick, they got Tedric Thompson last year and Delano Hill, they have Bradley McDougald, who has the flexibility of playing free or strong safety. I think now that if you can get – and again, this is me thinking, this is not inside information – maybe a two and a four, maybe two and a four and something else, that might be enough to get something done. It fills the void in the second round, still gives them the flexibility to draft at 18 or draft back and fill some things in the third round, it gives them more flexibility and also gives them the ability to get the safeties on the field who did some good things last year. They believe in Delano Hill. They’d like to be able to see if there’s a chance that he could play, not at the expense of a bad deal for Earl Thomas, but I think a deal for Earl Thomas now has to be in the mix.”
Clayton had planned to watch for a potential trade on Day 1 of the NFL Draft April 26, but now says the release of Bryant increases the chances of a trade happening before then.
“The reason I didn’t know initially anything would happen is because at that game (last season between the Seahawks and Cowboys) there was no separation at the wide receiver position. So they needed to replace two or three of the receivers. Not that they’ve replaced two, but they brought two wide receivers in, Allen Hurns being the main one, and of course they have the draft. That’s why I thought that they would probably not trade a first-round pick. The fact that they’ve released him today opens up the possibility – now, whether it’s a first rounder, second rounder, some kind of configuration in the trade – I think it gives them the ability to take on Earl Thomas’ current contract and then give him the highest paid safety contract in the league.
“I think now, all of a sudden, there’s a ballgame. I’m not promoting it. I’m not advancing it saying they should do it or anything like that. Clearly they’ve got to get the best value. But I think now, with what’s on this roster right now, I think there’s a 50 percent chance that he could be traded.”