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Henderson: It appears Earl Thomas, Seahawks heading toward ‘stalemate’

Seahawks FS Earl Thomas is looking for a new contract entering the final year of his deal. (AP)

All eyes were on All-Pro safety Earl Thomas as the Seahawks neared their first mandatory minicamp Tuesday, but the question of whether or not Thomas would attend was answered a few days early. On Sunday morning, Thomas issued a statement on Twitter announcing his holdout from all team activities until his contract situation is resolved (more on that contract situation here).

ESPN’s Brady Henderson told Bob, Groz and Tom on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday that he wasn’t especially surprised Thomas announced a holdout, and expects that Thomas’ displeasure with his contract situation predates his initial comments in January. But a solution to the holdout for both parties could be months away – and if history is any indication, Thomas and Seattle may not reach a resolution at all.

“The first real hard indication that we got that Earl Thomas was really unhappy with his contract was at the Pro Bowl, but I’ve kind of had the impression that he’s been unhappy with things for a while,” Henderson said.

“Go back to when he signed that extension. This was right after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014. It was the same offseason that the Seahawks extended Richard Sherman for $14 million per year. Well, Earl Thomas got $10 million per year. That made him the highest-paid safety. But I think if you’re Thomas, at the time he was probably thinking he could make a case that he was every bit as important and impactful to that defense as Richard Sherman was but he got a deal that was significantly smaller. So if that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been unhappy about his contract for a while now. And if that’s true, it doesn’t really surprise me that he feels strongly enough about the situation to hold out.”

And unfortunately, a player who holds out for an extension – even if he has a case – faces a number of fines and penalties. Thomas will be fined around $85,000 if he misses all three days of this week’s mandatory minicamp, which is expected. A missed day of training camp due to a holdout could cost a player up to $30,000, and a missed game would cost a portion of a players’ salary (it was around $270,000 a game for safety Kam Chancellor during his holdout in 2015).

Could the Seahawks use the franchise tag on Earl Thomas?

Perhaps more costly would be the possibility of a contract tolling into the following year. This would only happen if Thomas held out through Game 7 of the regular season, but it would render him an unrestricted free agent in 2020 as opposed to 2019.

Thomas is one of the best free safeties in the NFL, and certainly deserves to be paid as such. He’ll make around $8.5 million in base salary this year, but will become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and was surely hoping Seattle would follow its pattern of awarding extensions in the final year of a player’s deal. Comparitively, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, the top-paid safety in the league, is making around $13 million.

But Henderson doesn’t see a solution coming anytime soon. He feels even less confident a resolution will be met when examining the Seahawks’ history of dealing with holdouts – in particular, with that of Chancellor.

“I’ll say this: in 2015 they did not capitulate to Kam Chancellor, when you could’ve argued they had more to gain by giving him an extension,” Henderson said. “This was a team that was coming off its second straight Super Bowl appearance, they were legitimate contenders to go to another Super Bowl, and they didn’t give into Kam Chancellor, even if it meant him missing two games.

“Well, I don’t know if the Seahawks are in that same shape as far as (being) contenders now, so I would think there would be even less incentive for them. It’s not like they’re trying to keep this legitimate Super Bowl contender intact. I think their priority is going to be protecting the longterm, and I don’t think giving into Earl Thomas would accomplish that.” Listen to Brady Henderson’s full interview with Bob, Groz and Tom.