“Extend (me). If you don’t want me, let’s make a trade happen. I understand it’s a bizz.” — Earl Thomas.
K.J. Wright and Earl Thomas are in the same situation, but they are handling it differently. And, in this case, neither is wrong — because John Schneider is.
Wright is taking the high road, not making a stink about his contract — a highly respectable position to take, especially since Schneider and Pete Carroll have done an about-face and made a lot of unexpected moves that have the few remaining veterans wondering about their long-term status with the team.
“Why am I not holding out? I just want to control what I can control,” Wright said at the June minicamp. “I want to get better in the offseason. I believe spring ball is the way to improve yourself. And it’s my job to make sure to build this chemistry with my defense. And I want this defense to be good. I want coach Norton to have a good first year. I’ve always believed you control what you can control, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Thomas, meanwhile, is trying to control his future with the leverage he has: a holdout. In this case, with Schneider and Carroll turning the roster upside-down, the safety’s request to extend him or trade him is very fair. And holding out is a legit way to exercise his dissatisfaction — even if it won’t accomplish anything beyond that.
This is not Kam Chancellor’s ill-advised boycott or Michael Bennett’s griping — both with multiple years left on their deals. This is a star who has seen a bunch of high-profile teammates go and wants to know his future now — not when his contract is up next year. He has earned the right to hold out.
Not that he should even have to.
As we’ve said before, Schneider should extend the All-Pro and keep him as one of the core defensive stars — along with Bobby Wagner and Wright. The Seahawks will have a ton of cap room — over $60 million — next year, so they can easily afford to pay veteran stars Thomas ($14M APY), Wright ($8M) and Duane Brown ($11M).
But, Schneider apparently has turned gun shy after extending Marshawn Lynch, Bennett and Chancellor and seeing none of those guys play a down under their new deals — Lynch got hurt and retired, Chancellor suffered a career-ending neck injury and Bennett was traded after Schneider and Carroll decided he was no longer invested. Schneider wasted $45 million on those guys ($12 million on Lynch, $8 million on Bennett, $25 million on Chancellor).
This offseason, Schneider has continually referred to third contracts being different than second deals — an obvious change in his thinking after the three failed veteran extensions. But he’s over-correcting now, making a bad decision the other way.
Sure, maybe Schneider and Carroll are so upset with Thomas’ so-called treachery in Dallas last season that they just want him gone. But then why not just trade him for that third-rounder the Cowboys reportedly offered?
The Seahawks are undergoing a SEA change on defense, with Bennett, Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril all gone. Thomas clearly is next — since Schneider obviously is not interested in paying him. And Wright might follow, too, even though he also should be extended.
Schneider has basically cut bait this offseason. He chose not to take anything for Sherman last year, then simply cut him while injured because the team finally grew tired of his griping. And Schneider ditched the divisive Bennett, too, trading him just 14 months after giving him an extension that never kicked in.
Schneider got no value for Sherman and terrible return for Bennett (Schneider was in such a hurry to dump him that he missed out on a third-rounder from the Patriots), which is why it is odd the GM stands so steadfast in trying to get more than a third-round pick for Thomas.
Schneider and Carroll obviously are counting on the safety not wanting to miss real paychecks once the season starts and his $8.5 million salary kicks in. But you can expect Thomas to miss all of training camp and then report for the opener — or at least before midseason so he qualifies for free agency.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this.
Extending Thomas would not be a cap killer. The Hawks are projected to have $66 million in 2019 cap space — and making Chancellor a June cut would return $5.3 million more (even counting his injury guarantee). With all of that space, the Hawks could easily handle extensions for Thomas, Wright and Brown this year and Russell Wilson and Wagner next year.
(No, we’re not forgetting Frank Clark or Tyler Lockett. Clark probably will want more than Seattle will pay, and Lockett has to prove he can return to rookie form after two injury-affected years.)
Thomas wants to top Eric Berry’s $13 million APY, so a four-year extension worth $56 million would do it. Figure a new deal that pays a $14 million signing bonus, a $5 million salary in 2018 and then $10 million to $13 million the rest of the way (with roster bonuses built in). As long as he played through 2020, when he will be 31, the Hawks would be fine. Dead money would drop to $5.6 million in 2021, meaning the team could move on from him then if he was no longer worth it.
The reality though is Schneider and Carroll already feel like he is no longer worth it. And that’s why Thomas has good reason to hold out for a better situation.