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Why Earl Thomas ended his holdout, despite the Seahawks not giving him a new deal

Thomas’ return instantly improves the Seahawks’ defense.

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks defense won’t be the Legion of Boom in 2018, but the return of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas will help save it from a spiral. Thomas has ended his months-long contract holdout, despite not receiving a contract extension, as first reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson. Instead, Thomas agreed to return to a rebuilding Seahawks roster for the upcoming season.

What’s maybe most surprising about Thomas’ decision is that it came less than an hour after Adam Schefter reported the Dallas Cowboys upped their trade offer for the safety. With Thomas back in Seattle, any leverage to continue to try to force a trade is essentially gone and the Seahawks can be content with keeping their safety until the 2019 offseason.

Thomas seemingly explained his decision to report in an Instagram post Wednesday:

He explains in the caption that he doesn’t want to let his teammates or Seahawks fans down, but “the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten.”

Thomas practiced on Wednesday, though his status for the Seahawks’ Week 1 game against the Broncos is up in the air.

“It’s really good to have him back,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been with us for so long, he’s just been part of the fabric of what we’ve been about.”

Why did Thomas hold out?

Thomas seemed ready for a lengthy standoff when he began his holdout on June 10. He explained why he intended to stay home until a new contract could be reached with Seattle.

“I want to remain a Seahawk for the rest of my career but I also believe that based on my production over the last eight years that I’ve earned the right to have this taken care of as soon as possible,” Thomas tweeted. “I want to have certain in regards to the upcoming years of my career.”

The 29-year-old safety has one year and $8.5 million in salary remaining on a four-year, $40 million extension signed back in 2014 and wasn’t comfortable entering 2018 in a lame duck role for a defense that had shed several core players after 2017.

Why did Thomas return without a new contract?

Thomas ultimately didn’t have much leverage. The Seahawks are facing a crossroads after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and while Thomas still adds value, he’s an uncomfortable relic from a leftover era. With the Rams and 49ers ascending, throwing a big financial commitment to a veteran with a rebuild already in motion was a tough sell for Seattle’s front office.

When the Seahawks turned down the Cowboys’ offer of a second-round pick, it essentially sealed the fact the team wasn’t going to move on from Thomas. His options were to sit out and rack up costly fines or show up and prove his value to whatever team he plays for in 2019.

What does this mean for the Seahawks?

Thomas will bring a stabilizing presence to a defense that’s seen plenty of turnover since 2017. In the past six months, Seattle has cut Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, and Jeremy Lane, traded Michael Bennett, allowed Sheldon Richardson to leave as a free agent, and watched Kam Chancellor’s neck injury develop into a career-ender. While starters like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright remain, there are plenty of gaps that need to be filled in the Pacific Northwest.

Bringing back a four-time All-Pro and one of the best deep-ball safeties of the decade will take care of one major need. Thomas will be counted on not just to provide a big-hitting center field presence, but also leadership for a team whose identity is currently in flux. He’ll help lead a redeveloping secondary that will now rely on young contributors (Shaquill Griffin, Delano Hill, Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson) and recent transplants (Dontae Johnson, Shalom Luani, Akeem King).

Thomas is one of the few standouts remaining from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl runs of 2014 and 2015. Wagner, Wright, Russell Wilson, and Doug Baldwin are the biggest names still around from the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title. Retaining him allows the team to hold on to that pedigree for at least one more season.