With the beginning of Seahawks’ training camp now less than 48 hours away, the Earl Thomas rumor mill is predictably beginning to pick up steam.
Most eye-catching Tuesday was a report out of Dallas from NBC Sports Radio host Newy Scruggs stating that Thomas “plans” to sell his home in Seattle and that he recently told Oakland Raiders’ owner Mark Davis to “come get him” — the same phrase Thomas used during his infamous encounter with Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett last December.
Scruggs also wrote: “I’m told Earl Thomas will not report to the Seahawks. He is done with Seattle. Plans to sell his house in Seattle. He will ONLY report if he gets a new deal.”
Thomas might want to play for Oakland but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Raiders are interested in him. It’s not that any team wouldn’t want Thomas if they could make it work, but at the moment this isn’t a rumor of trade talks, just a note that Thomas would be fine if Oakland somehow also got involved.
Oakland has just $2.2 million in cap room for 2018, so the Raiders would have to do some finagling to add Thomas and his $10.4 million cap hit for 2018. But the Raiders also have more than $114 million in cap space for 2019 so they could do some maneuvering to make it work should it be necessary.
But for now, Thomas remains the property of the Seahawks, even if apparently increasingly begrudgingly.
Thomas wrote via Twitter in June that he did not plan to take part in any activities with the Seahawks until his contract situation was settled.
“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 wrote in June. “I want to have certainty in regards to the upcoming years of my career.”
With training camp beginning on Thursday, Thomas’ contract situation remains the same: He has one year left with a base salary of $8.5 million, with no indication there have been any substantive contract talks between Thomas and the Seahawks.
Thomas is thought to want more than $13 million a year to remain with the Seahawks, which would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
Seattle apparently doesn’t want to grant a significant long-term extension to Thomas, who will turn 30 before the 2019 season.
So for now, the stalemate continues. The Seahawks appear willing to wait and see if Thomas truly holds out, as he did during mandatory minicamp in June.
Thomas was subject to fines of up to $84,435 for skipping minicamp.
Those fines ratchet up now. Players can be fined $40,000 for every day of training camp missed. If the holdout lasts beyond five days, teams can also fine a player 15 percent of his signing bonus (which was $9.5 million for Thomas), and then one percent for each additional day, up to 25 percent. Teams have the ability to fine players but do not have to, and fines are often reduced or waived once a player reports.
During the regular season, players are paid weekly and Thomas would get docked 1/17th of his base salary of $8.5 million, or $500,000, for every game he misses.
The Seahawks appear willing to see if Thomas will risk that much money despite knowing that the rules mean he has to return at some point this season.
There is no specific mention of it in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s generally agreed Thomas would have to return by midseason to avoid having his contract potentially toll (meaning, he’d still be under contract for one more season with Seattle in 2019 instead of becoming an unrestricted free agent) based on a ruling in 2000 involving former Seahawks receiver Joey Galloway (who interestingly enough, ended up being traded to Dallas).
At this point, it’d probably be a surprise if Thomas shows up when Seahawks players have to report in on Wednesday.
Thomas has not said anything publicly since his Twitter announcement in June other than a few other social media posts, specifically a message on Instagram last week in which he wrote: “Always been the underdog ain’t nothing new. Extend…..if you don’t want me let’s make a trade happen I understand it’s a bizz.”
Tuesday’s leak via a Dallas media member that Thomas would be willing to play for the Raiders might be Thomas’ Texas-based representatives implying that Thomas could be happy in locales other than just Dallas, which he has acknowledged was his favorite team while growing up in Orange, Texas.
One complication in a trade is that any team acquiring Thomas would likely want an assurance it could get him under contract beyond the 2018 season, so Thomas — or someone close to him — indicating he’d be willing to play for other teams might ease the trade process.
There’s no reason to think the Seahawks have talked only to Dallas, but the Cowboys appear to have been the most interested. Dallas, though, didn’t want to give up a second-round pick for Thomas prior to the draft, which the Seahawks apparently set as the minimum.
Seattle isn’t thought to have lessened its demands, which has led to the continued summer stalemate. But the beginning of camp could change the dynamic as events happen around the league.
The Raiders have been a familiar trading partner for Seattle during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era in part because Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie is one of Schneider’s best friends — the two worked together for years in Green Bay.