We’re getting down to it now, less than two weeks ’til the NFL draft, and the question of whether the Seahawks should trade Earl Thomas magnified last Friday when the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant.
Everyone is connecting the dots more than ever before. Last year Thomas ran into the Cowboys’ locker room after a Seahawks’ game in Dallas and asked coach Jason Garrett to “come get me” or something to that effect – even though no one could actually “get him” since he’s under contract with the Seahawks through the 2018 season.
But that started the speculation that Thomas might want to play somewhere else. Then the All-Pro safety made things worse when he intimated at the Pro Bowl that he would hold out if the Seahawks don’t give him a contract extension.
With Bryant off the books, the Cowboys have more salary-cap room to accommodate Thomas in 2019, and they need help in the secondary – Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times noted that Dallas had just 10 interceptions last year.
There’s not a simple solution, but if you put all of what you know in a bowl and mix it together, you have a player who could hold out and be a distraction the way Kam Chancellor was in 2015 when he held out and missed the first two games – both losses by the way.
You also have a player who has been fantastic, perhaps a Hall of Famer, certainly a future member of the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor. But he will be 30 when the new contract starts in 2019, and he wants to be the highest-paid safety in the league, or at least get as much as the current leader, Eric Berry of Kansas City, at $13 million a year.
When I weigh the factors and consider the risks, here’s the down side to trading Thomas – he could play at a premier level into his early 30s for the Cowboys and make you regret that you dealt him.
But history tells you that that’s not likely to happen. Most players at his position lose a step in their 30s. Maybe he’ll be an exception, and there are players who have been, but more who have not played as well in their 30s as they did in their 20s.
That’s the other thing – if the Seahawks were paying him for the level he’s played at the last four years, he’d be worth the $13 million a year he wants instead of the $10 million a year he’s currently making. But to think he’ll play at that level and warrant $13 million annually for the next four years is crazy in my book.
I also wonder about his durability. Compared to many other players, Thomas has not had as many injuries. But he missed training camp and the entire preseason after labrum surgery in 2015. The next year he missed the first game of his career with a pulled hamstring and then broke his leg the following week. Last year he missed two games with another hamstring injury.
The Seahawks are stuck with a bad contract with Chancellor, and they don’t need another.
From what GM John Schneider said at the combine, I sense that the Seahawks don’t want to pay him $13 million a year. If that’s truly the case, it’s hard to picture Thomas being a happy camper; it’s easier to picture him as a no-show camper. The Seahawks run the risk of having another Chancellor situation on their hands, and maybe they’ve learned from what happened with Richard Sherman too.
Last year Sherman was available in a trade, but the asking price was apparently too high. Sherman stayed, tore his Achilles midway through the season and is now with the 49ers after the Seahawks released him in March.
The Seahawks have waded in with what Schneider calls a “reset” of the team, not a rebuild. But whatever you want to call it, I think at this point, he might as well get on the high-dive and do a cannonball. He’s already traded Michael Bennett, cut Sherman and looks to lose Chancellor and Cliff Avril to career-ending injuries too.
Trading Thomas would eliminate the possibilities of a holdout or an out-of-sorts Thomas if he does show up for training camp. You have a capable fill-in in Bradley McDougald, who isn’t Thomas, but he isn’t Steven Terrell either, the backup who struggled after Thomas broke his leg in 2016. It’s also time to see how second-year safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill will fare with increased playing time.
In return, you could get Dallas’ 19th pick, which would give you back-to-back first-round selections since Seattle already has the 18th selection. Or maybe it would be something not that attractive, like a second and a third – and it might be enough to get the Seahawks to bite since they don’t have a pick this year in either of those rounds.
I understand that I’m throwing trade scenarios at the wall here, but whatever it takes, within reason, I hope the Seahawks learn from the past and take a leap of faith by trading Thomas.