O’Neil: Dear Seahawks, play Earl Thomas right away
RENTON – Play him.
Unless Earl Thomas staged all those workout pictures on Instagram and he isn’t in good enough shape to play regular-season football, and in that case wait a week. But after watching Thomas prepare and play for eight years, I feel pretty confident in believing the guy is ready to go physically, and if that’s the case I’m not really all that worried about his state of mind after he decided to end his holdout.
He’s mad? Good. He feels disrespected? Fine.
And to be honest I really don’t care how bitter he is toward the organization nor how committed he will be to the team going forward.
I am reasonably certain about two things, however:
• 1) He has kept in touch with his teammates – even the guy who took his spot in the defense the past five weeks. Tedric Thompson said that last month during an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle.
• 2) Earl Thomas isn’t one to half-step. And even if he was inclined to give less than optimal effort, he’s got millions of reasons to play the best football possible to convince someone to give him a huge contract in the offseason.
The Seahawks could also trade him now. Not that they weren’t allowed to before, but there was a strategic consideration involved because to trade a player for whatever you can get while he’s in the midst of a holdout is to give the entire league an example that no-showing for work is a way to get what you want.
But now that Thomas has showed up, the team is no longer being held hostage. There’s not as much worry about the precedent being set. The question is whether it’s worth it to pay this specific player $8.5 million for this season or to take a draft pick as compensation.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the Cowboys upped their offer to a second-round pick in 2019 for Thomas earlier this week, and I can see the argument for why Seattle should take that rather than reincorporating an embittered All-Pro into a team after spending the past five weeks preparing both mentally and physically to play without him.
I’d rather have Thomas at the back end of this defense as soon as possible. Thompson might be good. Heck, he could turn out to be a Pro Bowler, but Thomas is great. We know this, and there’s no reason to think that he’s going to play worse because he feels undervalued, overlooked and unappreciated.
So play him. Right now.