Moore: After rocky final year with Seahawks, Ravens safety Earl Thomas set for Seattle return

Oct 15, 2019, 10:20 AM | Updated: 10:20 am

Former Seahawks FS Earl Thomas...

Ex-Seahawks FS Earl Thomas has one interception so far in his first year with the Ravens. (Getty)


Ready for Earl Thomas’ return to Seattle? The Baltimore Ravens will be here Sunday, which means we’ll see him roaming around CenturyLink Field again.

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Remember the last time we saw him? He was being taken off the field after breaking his leg in Arizona during Seattle’s Week 4 game last season, flipping off Pete Carroll as he headed to the locker room.

That followed a week in which Thomas told reporters he wasn’t going to practice if he had a headache or any other little ailment, not wanting to risk injury, fearing it would hurt his earnings potential in free agency.

That followed a game where Thomas had two interceptions against Dallas and said “I just want to be appreciated,” even though it seemed that he was – the Seahawks were paying him $10 million in 2018.

That followed Thomas’ training-camp holdout because he wanted an extension that would make him the highest-paid safety in the league. The Seahawks chose to let Thomas play out his deal, apparently not feeling a 30-year-old safety – even one as good as he is – would be worth $14 million or $15 million a year.

That followed a game late in the 2017 season in which Thomas went into the Cowboys locker room and implored coach Jason Garrett to “come get me” in a trade.

The Earl Thomas Circus unofficially ended its run in Seattle when he broke his leg and was really over when he signed a four-year, $55 million contract ($32 million guaranteed) with the Ravens in March.

Thomas has had what could be called a slightly above-average year with the Ravens but nothing close to warranting his contract. His Pro Football Focus rating is 76.7. With a scoring system that goes to 100, his ranking is basically a C+.

Or maybe you discount PFF’s rankings. A more standard statistical look shows Thomas with one interception this year. He also anchors a Ravens’ pass defense that ranks 25th in the NFL, below the standards of a Seattle defense with Thomas on the back end.

Maybe you wish the Seahawks had honored his demands and paid him. If they had, would the Seahawks’ secondary be that much better? Clearly he’s still a better player than Tedric Thompson, his replacement, but when you consider the salary difference – Thompson is earning $645,000 – are you glad they saved the money to spend on other players such as Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah?

I guess you could have a healthy debate with that right now. I don’t feel like the Seahawks have gotten their money’s worth from Clowney and Ansah so far, considering they’re paying them a combined estimate of $16 million this year.

Thing is, every circus has a sideshow, and Earl’s did too. Can you imagine what the rest of last season would have been like had Thomas not broken his leg? Carroll would have been fielding questions every week from reporters wondering if Thomas was practicing or not. And as the season went on, Thomas would have become more and more disgruntled, and we would have heard more crazy comments, creating a distraction-filled environment.

But you could fairly argue if they had paid him, Thomas would have been a happier camper, thrilled to get the new deal and anxious to prove he was worth it.

I was always on the side of not paying him. If he hadn’t run into the Cowboys’ locker room, hadn’t missed training camp, hadn’t whined about not being appreciated and hadn’t given the middle finger to Carroll, I would have been more inclined to pay him. K.J. Wright was in the same situation, playing out the last year of his contract, and I know they’re different players and in a different salary bracket, but it worked out for Wright – he’s back and playing well. But if the Seahawks paid Thomas, they would have adversely affected their salary cap and ability to strengthen their team elsewhere.

It’s all in the past now. Thomas arrives Sunday with a Ravens’ team that is known for its defense but has a much better offense this year, leading the NFL with an average of 451 yards of offense per game.

The return of Thomas prompts a few questions:

• What kind of reception will Thomas get from the 12s? Will they show their appreciation and give a standing ovation to one of the original members of the Legion of Boom, a player who had 29 interceptions in his nine years here? Or is it too soon? Will they boo him for how he acted in his final year here?

• If Thomas gets an interception or makes a game-saving pass deflection, will he bow in front of the Seahawks’ sideline like he did to the Dallas sideline after a pick last year? Or will he still be so bitter that he’ll flip off Carroll again, especially if the Ravens win and have a dominating defensive performance?

As with Richard Sherman, there are bound to be some lingering hard feelings on both sides. In time, Sherman and Thomas will return to cheers as they enter the Ring of Honor and raise the 12th Man flag. They’ll also be cheered when they enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame and remembered as the outstanding Seahawks that they were.

In the meantime, it will be strange to see Thomas in a different jersey on Sunday. Whatever the outcome, I’ll bet the grudge-holder will do something that will make us shake our heads in disbelief or dismay.

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