Earl Thomas can hold out, but the Seahawks can use the franchise tag
Earl Thomas was polite and he was firm when he stated Sunday via Twitter that he would not be reporting for team activities without a new contract extension.
Now it’s time for the Seahawks to do the same thing.
They should tell Thomas that that if he doesn’t report for the start of training camp, they will plan to use the franchise tag on him next offseason.
— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) June 10, 2018
That may not sound like much of a punishment. After all, the franchise tag entails a one-year offer for the average of the top-five salaries at the player’s position. But it’s a multi-year payday that Thomas is after – one big enough that the Seahawks aren’t willing to pay it. And if Thomas has stated that he won’t play for the team until he gets that payday, well, the team should make it clear that he won’t get to that payday unless he plays from the start of training camp.
The Seahawks don’t need to say any of this publicly. In fact, they probably shouldn’t. This isn’t about posturing and it’s not about flexing any sort of power or winning a negotiation. It’s not about sending a message, either.
This is about making good business decisions, and if the past four years have shown anything, it’s that signing veterans to extensions as they approach – or in some cases have passed – the age of 30 is not a good investment.
Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor were all considered core members of Seattle’s team. Each had their contract extended before entering the final year of the deal. If Chancellor is unable to return from injury, none of those three will have played so much as a single snap beyond what would have been the final year of their original deal before the extension.
And we should make this clear: contract extensions are not something a player is owed. They’re not really earned, either. A contract extension is an investment a team makes on the future performance of a player. The team is so confident in the future performance of that player that it’s willing to absorb the risk the player will be injured or his performance will decline by making a multi-year, multi-million-dollar commitment a year before it has to.
This strategy has worked really well for the Seahawks – for players coming off their rookie contracts. Max Unger, Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Justin Britt were all players who signed extensions before their rookie deals expired.
They didn’t just get paid. Those investments paid off for the Seahawks.
That has not been the case for players who are negotiating what amounts to a third contract in the league. While signing Cliff Avril to a extension in 2014 was a great investment, the deals for Lynch, Bennett and Chancellor may have bought the satisfaction of those veterans but didn’t turn out to have any long-term dividends.
It’s understandable why Thomas wants a new deal. I would even say that he’s justified in his desire for a new deal when you consider the team’s negotiating history.
That doesn’t mean the Seahawks should sign him to that new deal, though. In fact, the team’s recent history presents a pretty compelling argument why they shouldn’t, and now that Thomas has stated that he won’t play unless he gets paid, the only response for the team is to make it clear he must play in order to get paid.