The Earl Thomas trade rumors are heating up again this week. The Seahawks are hosting the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon, and NFL Network is reporting that the Cowboys hope to reignite Seattle’s interest in dealing the safety. The question will be the asking price. Dallas offered a second-round pick, before the season started. That wasn’t enough. Maybe they can rekindle some motivation as Seattle confronts the reality of a rebuild.
Thomas is a game-changing safety. The heavy-hitting outfielder was a key component of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defense, a big-play eraser who helped push Seattle to two Super Bowl appearances and one NFL championship.
But now he’s stuck in limbo. Thomas is one of the few recognizable veteran faces on a roster that looks nothing like the teams that terrorized the NFC West for the better part of the past decade. Richard Sherman is gone. So are Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett.
And, since the club is dead set against offering him a lengthy contract extension, Thomas wants out too, now famously saying “the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten.” Now, his status for Week 3 against the Cowboys is in doubt after he missed practice for “personal” reasons.
The question is whether any team will meet the Seahawks’ lofty asking price to free him from football purgatory in 2018.
The Cowboys have been the most frequent dance partner in these trade talks, offering the the All-Pro safety an opportunity to return to his home state of Texas for the latter half of his career. But the team’s last offer of a 2019 second-round pick wasn’t enough to sate Seattle, who can keep a high-performing Thomas on its roster next year against his wishes with the franchise tag.
The Seahawks, perhaps emboldened by the Raiders’ haul of two first-round picks in their Khalil Mack deal, are holding out for first- and third-round selections in exchange for a player with only 14 games remaining on his current contract. Carroll’s hope is that a fading contender will become desperate enough for their missing piece to give up a young and inexpensive asset to speed up Seattle’s youth movement. Dallas’ hope — or any other team that ponies up a first-round pick for the veteran defender — is that Thomas is the difference between playoff contender and Super Bowl squad.
So let’s say you’re Jerry Jones for a minute, an amount of time that’s either way too long or way too short to be the Cowboys’ owner. Do you pay the Seahawks’ ransom to land Thomas in 2018? Or would you wait it out and hope you can sign him in 2019?
The case for: giving in and sending the Seahawks a first-round pick for 14 games of Earl Thomas
The easy thing to do here is crack a joke about how this pick would just get wasted anyway, but that’s not really the case here. The Cowboys’ first-round picks have been pretty solid every since Morris Claiborne.
This is more about the value of first-round picks being a little overinflated by us media types and fans. Dallas’ defense doesn’t get enough credit as a group. They have some of the foundational pieces a good defense needs, not to mention an outstanding coordinator in Rod Marinelli. What they lack is an elite deep field safety. And, hey, wouldn’t ya know it, I think I have the perfect guy in mind for that very job.
A team can take a safety with a first-round pick, but who knows if the guy will be a superstar, an average Joe, or playing for the Bills in a year’s time. You know what you’re getting Thomas is a known commodity.
Not convinced trading high draft picks for a top player at an important position is worth it? Exhibit A: Khalil Mack. I rest my case. — Ryan Van Bibber
The case for: waiting and trying to sign Thomas as a free agent in 2019
The Cowboys want Earl Thomas. Earl Thomas wants to be a Cowboy. If any team in the league has an inside track on signing the dynamic safety, it’s Dallas.
Well, technically it’s Seattle, but the Seahawks have spent the last year burning their bridges with Thomas. While the club can keep him around for 2019 with the franchise tag, they’d also be inviting him to stage another holdout that would threaten the chemistry of a rebuilding team eager to put what’s primed to be a disappointing 2018 behind it. The Seahawks could also sign Thomas to the long-term extension for which he’s been angling, but if they weren’t going to invest in him as a 29-year-old, there’s no good reason to think they’ll reverse course when he’s 30.
That means there’s a very good chance Thomas is available next spring, and even if the Hawks franchise tag him in order to hold on to his rights before trading him, his asking price won’t be as steep as it is this fall. But mostly, Seattle looks like a team ready to wash its hands of the whole mess once Thomas’ contract expires:
Important note, as #Seahawks S Earl Thomas continues his holdout: Thomas & his reps were informed prior to offseason activities that the team was not going to address his contract, I’m told. It was specific and clear. Whether or not Thomas came in to camp has zero impact on it.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 27, 2018
Dallas would have the inside track on signing Thomas in 2019, a year where it will have an estimated $65 million in salary cap space to spend. Better yet, the team could do it without giving up any inexpensive draft assets.
The Cowboys have a good reason to allow patience to be their virtue, too. Safety Xavier Woods practiced for the first time since suffering a preseason injury this week, and the second-year pro is capable of adding some extra punch to the secondary once he’s finally healthy. Even if he’s just a stopgap solution, he can still add depth in 2019 next to the team’s prized free agent addition.
Thomas is getting older, but he hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down, either. He was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and has been Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 rated safety through two games this season. Missing out on Thomas’ strong 2018 hurts, but it won’t hurt as much as giving up a first-round pick just for 14 extra games with the Seattle star in the lineup. — Christian D’Andrea
Which option would you choose?
Would you rather trade a first-round pick for Earl Thomas, or gamble on signing him as a free agent in 2019?
This poll is closed
I’d pay the premium to get Thomas now.
I’d hold on to my draft picks and gamble later.