At some point, the saga regarding Seattle Seahawks star Earl Thomas will be resolved. Until then, things promise to remain spicy between the player and the team.
On Sunday, reports surfaced that the Seahawks are considering fining Thomas a significant amount for missing practice twice this week, though he participated in Seattle’s walk-through Saturday before his team beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
After the game, Thomas defended himself, telling a KJR reporter, “I need to make sure my body is 100 and I’m invested in myself. If they was invested in me, I’d be out there practicing, but if I feel like anything – I don’t give a damn if it’s small, I got a headache – I’m not practicing.”
Thomas, a three-time All-Pro who is irritated at being forced to play the last year of a lucrative four-year, $40 million deal without a new extension, sat out all of training camp and organized team activities to express his displeasure. And with the Seahawks improving to 1-2 after Sunday’s win against Dallas, it’s unlikely more on-field success this year will make things any better.
There’s a reasonable chance Thomas could be dealt before the Oct. 30 trade deadline, lest the Seahawks be forced to franchise an unhappy player this offseason or lose him for nothing.
So, in the spirit of looking ahead, here are the four teams that multiple league sources — when polled by Yahoo Sports — agreed are intriguing fits for the six-time Pro Bowler, with a focus on the issues (mainly fit and Thomas’ salary) that could hold up a deal.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are a mess following the Khalil Mack trade, and they need to figure out whether they’re rebuilding or retooling, as the decision to surrender a third-rounder for troubled receiver Martavis Bryant would suggest the latter.
While the Raiders are a long shot — especially compared to the other teams on this list – there’s one crucial component to consider: the relationship between Seahawks general manager John Schneider and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
At the end of the day, nothing is happening in Oakland without coach Jon Gruden’s approval, but the man loves veterans, and it’s easy to see his thought process on how ready the Raiders are to win. Perhaps McKenzie’s relationship could grease the wheels for a move, especially if a starting safety — either Karl Joseph or Marcus Gilchrist — goes down with an injury.
What’s more, the Raiders, who have about $7 million in salary-cap space, could absorb Thomas’ deal with a move or two.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Guess who knows Earl Thomas very well? Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who was Thomas’ defensive coordinator in Seattle from 2013-14, which included their Super Bowl title.
The Falcons run the same single-high, Cover 1/Cover 3-reliant scheme that Thomas has flourished with in Seattle, so picking up the terminology and checks of the defense will be a breeze. Throw in the fact the Falcons lost stud strong safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending knee injury, which forced starting free safety Ricardo Allen to move to Neal’s strong safety position, and there’s definitely a need.
Still, the Falcons might want to see more of 2017 fifth-round pick Damontae Kazee before they surrender draft capital for a 29-year-old free safety like Thomas. They also traded a conditional pick to New England for strong safety Jordan Richards — a 2015 second-round pick — so there’s not necessarily a rush to get anything done.
Like Kansas City, the Falcons don’t have much cap room (only $5 million or so) so they’d need to make a corresponding move to create enough space for Thomas.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
With the Chiefs’ offense looking like the newest reincarnation of the Greatest Show on Turf, and the defense looking like a way worse iteration of that ’99 Rams’ defense — which ranked sixth in the NFL — it’s easy to see why the Chiefs would be a great fit for Thomas.
On the field, it’s hard to imagine a better complement to star safety Eric Berry than Thomas, who could play one-high and shut down the deep passing alleys that would allow Berry to do what he does best, which is sniff around the box and make plays. This would also improve the run defense and allow the Chiefs to better take away short passing concept.
Berry is dealing with a heel injury, and it’s unclear when he’ll return. So Thomas would be a nice hedge in case he doesn’t play much this year, and I could see him playing well with Ron Parker, who is currently playing the deep safety role and has some tackling issues but is willing to play near the line of scrimmage.
There actually has been past interest in Thomas on the Chiefs’ part. The Chiefs — who have a pair of second-round picks in 2019 thanks to the Marcus Peters trade — reached out about Thomas in August, but found the price to be too high and were never close to a deal.
Cap space would be a bit of an issue, but nothing the Chiefs couldn’t manage. To acquire Thomas this week, they’d need to have only $7 million in cap room — Thomas’ adjusted 2018 base salary through three weeks — a number that will drop by $500,000 with every week that passes. The Chiefs have $6.6 million in cap space at the moment, but if Seattle’s asking price comes down and the Chiefs want to make it happen, they could create enough room.
The real shame of it all is this: this Chiefs’ offense looks legit, and might be a generational “Greatest Show on Turf”-type unit. If that’s the case, they’ll blow my original projection of eight wins out of the water, and they may be only a stud safety in Thomas and another upgrade at cornerback (Bashaud Breeland?) away from being a Super Bowl contender.
If the offense keeps rolling this way, we’ll see how creative the Chiefs and general manager Brett Veach can be. An offense this potent can’t be wasted by waiting around until the offseason to fix the only thing standing between it and a Super Bowl appearance.
1. Dallas Cowboys
The odds-on favorite. Not only do the Cowboys have the cap room to fully absorb Thomas’ salary — they have $12.1 million in space — Thomas, an Orange, Texas, native who played college ball at the University of Texas, was even caught on camera asking Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to trade for him on the field after Seattle’s 21-12 win over Dallas last December.
Thomas told reporters after Sunday’s games that Cowboys coaches made small talk with him, saying, “Yeah, of course, I heard chatter, people were coming up to me and saying a trade might happen. Even pregame, a couple Cowboys coaches came up to me, I don’t know if they were playing psychological games, but they were like, ‘You ready for the trade tomorrow?'”
It makes sense, however, that a trade for Thomas didn’t materialize before Sunday’s showdown between the two squads. There were discussions this summer, with the Cowboys — like the Chiefs — also rebuffing the Seahawks’ initial asking price.
In general, it’s hard to imagine a team surrendering more than a second- and a fourth-rounder for Thomas, considering his age, position and size (5-feet-10, 202 pounds). But the Cowboys are a good fit, since defensive backs coach Kris Richard, who calls plays for the Cowboys’ defense but isn’t the defensive coordinator by name, actually was the coordinator in Seattle from 2015-17 before he was fired this offseason. He remains a fan of Thomas, who would be an immediate upgrade at safety and give the defense some juice on the backend.
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