Art Thiel: Seahawks free agency pivots around Thomas

Art Thiel: Seahawks free agency pivots around Thomas

Seattle’s decision on whether to keep its star safety will signal the team’s plans for the season.

Most of us in these parts can cope with sprinkles, showers and steady rain. But the deluges that accompany thunderstorms elsewhere? No. Too much nature all at once. Old Testament-style weather doesn’t fit a tech city that naively assumes it’s in control of some things.

At least, that’s my analogy to explain how it seems at the moment to be a fan after watching nine Seahawks shown the door over the past 10 days, including two longtime stalwarts for little to nothing in return: A dreary deluge.

The water level seems to have reached the collective lower lip, which trembles.

But until the list includes free safety Earl Thomas, nobody’s drowning here. Having said that, feel free to indulge a rib-rattling cough.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was cut for no compensation and signed with the 49ers. Defensive end Michael Bennett was traded to the Eagles for little. Tight end Jimmy Graham (Packers) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (Redskins) were free agents that the Seahawks chose not to afford. The Seahawks wanted to keep cornerback DeShawn Shead (Lions), but he escaped for a more lucrative deal. Two running backs, Thomas Rawls and Mike Davis, were restricted free agents released into free agency because they had no trade value.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson remains a free agent, as is cornerback Jeremy Lane, although news came Wednesday that he was signed up by King County Superior Court — for a March 26 date to discuss a DUI.

The commencement of NFL free agency Wednesday offered little immediate rescue for a constituency soaked with disappointing news.

The Seahawks did break a pattern of not making a first-day additions by agreeing to a two-year deal with one the best names in sports, defensive end Barkevious Mingo. He will join his fourth team in four seasons (he started six times for the Colts in 2017) to add defensive line depth, or maybe he’ll stand up and be a linebacker.

The Seahawks did re-sign three of their own free agents whose contributions were somewhat under the radar but still valuable: Defensive backs Bradley McDougald and Justin Coleman — both were part-time starters who were new last season — and defensive end Dion Jordan, who was a bit of a revelation as a pass-rusher in the final five games.

Looming over this bewilderment of comings and mostly goings was Thomas, the last Legionnaire standing from the Boom days.

He’s not a free agent. But he is the pivot point.

After the departure of Sherman and perhaps a career-ending injury to Kam Chancellor, Thomas looms as the guy holding together the back end of the defense, the most important element of a Pete Carroll team.

He is upon his final contract year, making $10.4 million. He’ll be 29, remains healthy and still at the top of the list of premier safeties in the NFL. He has said during and after the season he wants to be paid like it in a multi-year extension. At the moment, Kansas City’s Eric Berry is the highest-paid safety at $13 million annually.

A report Wednesday from a Dallas media outlet said the Cowboys, whom Thomas told in December to “come get me,” made an inquiry. The Seahawks reportedly wanted the Cowboys’ first-round draft pick, 19th overall. But that’s not going to happen with a single year remaining before Thomas can be a free agent.

If the Seahawks don’t change their minds, logic says that much of the shedding of Seattle salaries going on right now is to help create room under the salary cap to attempt to extend Thomas’s deal, then do the same for a key player on the offense, left tackle Duane Brown. There’s speculation that a commitment was made to Brown, who gets $9.75 million in his final contract year, as part of the deal that brought him in trade from Houston in exchange for a second-round pick (2019) and a third-round pick (2018).

If the savings from the current purge goes largely to pay Thomas and Brown, the remaining amount available under the cap isn’t likely to allow the Seahawks to be big players in the free agent market. And they’ve already nibbled at that with $6.8 million to Mingo.

But the virtue here is that Thomas and Brown are healthy, premier talents known to the Seahawks, which seems at this point a better outcome than investing in another round of cheaper, damaged goods such as Eddie Lacy and Luke Joeckel from a year ago.

Regarding the lack of return on the departing talent, it is a fact of NFL life that the Seahawks have largely postponed in the Carroll era. Some fans may be new to this thrilling walk along the cliff’s edge, but the cruelty of the NFL’s hard salary cap often leaves no better route.

A quick glance around the NFL lately discloses a number of familiar names who, as with Sherman, were jettisoned for no return: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Danny Amendola, WR Jeremy Maclin, CB Tyrann Mathieu, TE Eric Ebron, TE Julius Thomas, WR Jordy Nelson, RB Jonathan Stewart, RB DeMarco Murray, for starters.

The retort of “everybody else does it” will not satisfy the battalions of Sherman fans any more than it does a parent when her kid breaks a window with a rock. But Sherman’s contract and injuries pushed him toward the door, and the Seahawks would have been foolish long-term to do anything but bid him farewell.

Still, the departure put an additional premium on the value of Thomas. So if the next few days, you see Thomas pulling on another team’s jersey, feel free to pull on a life preserver and keep track of the shoreline.

Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.

Talk to us

More in Sports

The AquaSox' Noelvi Marte hits a double against the Spokane Indians at Funko Field on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 in Everett, Washington. The Mariners promoted Marte from Low-A Modesto to High-A Everett on Monday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
M’s believe AquaSox shortstop Marte, 19, is budding superstar

Director of player development Andy McKay: “We believe in the skills (and) we believe in the person.”

Archbishop Murphy's Jojo Chiangpradit, (left) and Taylor Campbellat Archbishop Murphy, far right, celebrate  Cameron Bourne's goal and hat trick High School Tuesday night in Everett on September 14, 2021. The Wildcats won 6-1. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
GALLERY: Two hat tricks lift Archbishhop Murphy over Arlington

Jordyn Latta and Cameron Bourne each score three goals in the Wildcats’ 6-1 win over the Eagles.

AquaSox's manager, Louis Boyd, Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett on July 28, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
AquaSox eliminated from playoff contention with loss

Everett loses 6-3 to Spokane and won’t be playing for the High-A West championship.

LSU defensive lineman Ali Gaye runs off the line in the second half an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Mississippi State won 44-34. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Community roundup: E-W alum Gaye earns preseason All-SEC nod

Plus, a pair of former local standouts earn weekly honors for their respective college teams.

White line on Green grass sport field for sport concept
Prep results for Wednesday, Sept. 15

Prep sports roundup for Wednesday, Sept. 15: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lake Stevens' Kennedy Steen digs against Lake Stevens' Tuesday night at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds on September 7, 2021. The Vikings won in straight sets. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Prep volleyball poll for Wednesday, Sept. 15

Lake Stevens, Arlington and Darrington earn top-10 rankings from the state volleyball coaches.

X
Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for Sept. 6-12

The Athlete of the Week nominees for Sept. 6-12. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Empty seats are shown at T-Mobile Park during the eighth inning of a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Seattle. Fans were not allowed in the ballpark for the Mariners' home opener due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Mariners won 5-3. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle to host 2023 MLB All-Star Game

T-Mobile Park has been selected to host Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in July 2023.

Arlington's Elijah Jackson reaches out to block Oak Harbor's Caden Ebai during the game on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Arlington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
5 takeaways from Week 2 of prep football in Snohomish County

Wesco 3A North is shaping up to be an exciting race, Getchell shows promising signs, and more.

Most Read