Both of Seattle’s star safeties are at career crossroads — one seemingly talking about walking out, the other about holding out.
The short of it: Yeah, it looks like Kam Chancellor is done, but Earl Thomas is not going anywhere.
Chancellor’s Instagram post Friday was seen by most as a message that he is leaning toward retiring — or at least not playing again. Unlike Cliff Avril, he has been silent about his neck injury, but all signs point to the No. 1 Legionnaire of Boom likely being finished.
The only question has been whether he would make the team put him on injured reserve so he could collect his injury guarantees, which amount to $12 million over the next two years.
Meanwhile, there is no question that money is at the heart of Thomas’ concerns. Late in the season, he started rumbling about his contract and possibly playing for Dallas. This week, at the Pro Bowl in Florida, he doubled down on the contract talk with a subtle threat of a holdout.
Thomas said he wants to finish his career in Seattle, but “I definitely don’t see myself going out there not signed.”
“I think if they want me, you know, money talks,” he said. “We’ll get something accomplished.”
That last part is the truth of it. Thomas said he is not aware of any extension discussions yet, but there is no reason to worry. The Hawks reportedly are ready to trump Eric Berry’s contract and give Thomas $14 million a year. And they should.
They could easily do a three-year extension that guarantees him $24 million and lowers his 2018 cap by at least $3 million (depending on salary/bonus structure).
John Schneider usually waits to do extensions late in the offseason, but he might be well served this year to do Thomas’ in February — both to placate the star and to give Seattle more cap room as March approaches.
With Chancellor likely finished, the priority re-signing might well be standout two-way safety Bradley McDougald.
The other candidate for No. 1 free-agent priority is Sheldon Richardson, but it seems more and more likely that he will move on.
While he probably is aiming for $15 million a year, contract expert Joel Corry thinks he might not be offered more than $12 million on a long-term deal — and might settle for a one-year deal to try to beef up his value for 2019.
Unless Schneider intends to use the projected $14.5 million franchise tag on him, Richardson almost surely will test the market. Schneider has never paid a Seattle D-lineman more than $10 million a year (Michael Bennett’s recent deal averages $9.8 million), so it’s hard to see the GM making a long-term offer that Richardson would like. (We doubt Schneider will go for our idea of a tag-and-trade.)
In the end, Schneider probably will let Richardson go and look forward to the likely third-round comp pick in 2019.
Speaking of comp picks, here are projected market values for Seattle’s top free agents: