Earl Thomas

Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys “Holding Out Hope” Of Acquiring Earl Thomas?

While there has been no recent movement in talks regarding a trade that would send Seahawks safety Earl Thomas to the Cowboys, Dallas has “quietly held out hope” that it may acquire the All-Pro defensive back, according to Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram.

The Cowboys have made no secret in their interest in Thomas, and the club reportedly had talks with the Seahawks near the draft. However, Dallas balked at sending a second-round pick (which would have been the 50th overall selection) to Seattle in exchange for Thomas. Since that time, Seahawks general manager John Schneider acknowledged that while his team did have discussions involving Thomas, no deal was “remotely close to happening.”

However, Thomas has since continued his holdout: he did not report to mandatory minicamp earlier this week, and indicated he’ll continue to stay away from the Seahawks until his contract is “resolved.” Thomas’ absence isn’t major news in and of itself, but Seattle reportedly hadn’t had any conversations about Thomas’ deal — which expires after the 2018 season — as of late May. As such, there may not be a clear resolution in sight.

Thomas is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.5MM in 2018, so the Cowboys — who have roughly $11.5MM in cap space — would be able to fit him on their books. Given that Thomas’ is clearly unhappy with his current contract, Dallas would likely need to extend the 29-year-old. Seattle, meanwhile, would incur a dead money charge of $1.9MM as a result of a Thomas trade.

Arguably the most consistent safety in the NFL since 2010, Thomas graded as the league’s No. 9 safety in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. In Dallas, Thomas would not only give the Cowboys over either Jeff Heath or Xavier Woods, but reunite with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, who is now Dallas’ defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Movement On Earl Thomas To Cowboys

Safety Earl Thomas announced that he will not be attending the Seahawks’ mandatory minicamp as he pressures the team for a new contract. Right now, it doesn’t sound like that situation will result in a trade to the Cowboys. There hasn’t been much discussion on a trade to send Thomas to Dallas since the draft, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets

There were rumblings this offseason that the Seahawks could move Thomas, but coach Pete Carroll shot that down in April when he indicated the team was planning on keeping Thomas. GM John Schneider admitted that a trade was considered at one point, but also said that “nothing was remotely close to happening” in the spring.

Meanwhile, in May, it was said that there was no movement on a new deal for Thomas. At this point, something has to give. Thomas will either have to play out his final year at a salary of $8.5MM, or the Seahawks will have to give him an extension to put him at or near the top of his position group. Making him the highest-paid safety in the league would mean leapfrogging Eric Berry‘s mammoth six-year, $78MM deal.

When Thomas signed his four-year, $40MM extension with the Seahawks in 2014, he was the highest-paid safety in the NFL. Since then, he has been topped by five others: Berry, teammate Kam ChancellorReshad Jones (Dolphins), Lamarcus Joyner (Rams), and Harrison Smith (Vikings).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Cardinals, Thomas

The Vikings roster is quickly getting expensive. As Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com points out, six players have salary-cap numbers that exceed $10MM for next season: quarterback Kirk Cousins, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, and safety Harrison Smith. The team is also paying more than $8MM to defensive tackle defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson, and they still have to extend wideout Stefon Diggs and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

With money quickly running thin (the Vikings currently have $17MM in cap space, and Tomasson believes part of that will be used for extensions), general manager Rick Spielman acknowledged that it’s difficult managing the team’s budget.

“The hardest thing right now is the economic structure on our team where we have all these high-priced guys now because they all deserve to get paid the way they’ve been playing,’’ Spielman said. “But economically, we’re not going to go out there, you can’t play fantasy football and have $3 (million), $4 (million) or $5 million backup guys. Those are going to be the young guys that we’ve drafted or we’ve developed.’’

Of course, as he should, Spielman has an optimistic view of the cap crunch.

“It’s a good problem to have, but we have a very high-priced roster right now,’’ Spielman said. “And eventually some of those guys are going to get aged out, just like we had some of our other Pro Bowlers … and you have to replace them.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

Earl Thomas Will Continue Holdout, Not Report To Mandatory Minicamp

Earl Thomas has been absent from the voluntary portions of the Seahawks’ offseason program, something not too uncommon for a player of his caliber. Most reporters covering the team have expected Thomas to show up when mandatory minicamp arrived with the potential for fines if Thomas continued to stay away.

But now Thomas has made it clear he will not be reporting until his contract demands are satisfied, announcing the news himself (Twitter link). In the post, Thomas says he will “not be attending the upcoming mini camp or any team activities until my contract situation is resolved.” The team can fine Thomas up to $84,435 if he misses all three days of the minicamp.

There were rumblings this offseason that the Seahawks may look to trade Thomas, with Thomas’ hometown Cowboys a popular rumored destination, but coach Pete Carroll appeared to put that talk to rest in April when he indicated the team was planning on having Thomas for the 2018 season. General manager John Schneider admitted at the time that the team considered trading Thomas, but said that “nothing was remotely close to happening.”

Today’s post by Thomas is sure to revive those trade rumors. Thomas is a Texas-native and it’s long been rumored that he’d like to play in Dallas. Thomas has played for the Seahawks since being taken by them in the first round back in 2010. He’s a five-time All-Pro and one of the best safeties in the league, but the team appears to have some concerns about his age and his health.

Reacting to the news from Thomas, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says that the issue isn’t whether the Seahawks have the salary cap space to give Thomas what he wants, but rather “it’s whether they want to give him that kind of a long-term contract at age 30 and beyond. That’s the issue.” (Twitter link). Thomas will turn 30 in May of next year.

Thomas did say in his statement that he wants to “remain a Seahawk” for the rest of his career, but that he feels he’s “earned the right to have this taken care of as soon as possible.” Thomas is currently set to be a free agent at the end of this season. Whatever happens next, it’ll be a situation worth monitoring this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Talks Yet For Seahawks, Earl Thomas

The Seahawks’ OTAs are underway, but safety Earl Thomas is not among those in attendance, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Thomas has been pushing for a new deal, but there have been no talks yet and there are none on the horizon either, Pelissero hears. 

Thomas is under contract with Seattle for one more season at a salary of $8.5MM. Although participation in OTAs is voluntary, Thomas’ decision to stay home is probably a sign of his dissatisfaction with the lack of discussion regarding his contract.

I think Earl Thomas deserves the money he’s asking for,” former Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman said recently. “I think he deserves to be compensated as the top safety in the league. Whether Seattle does that or not is up to them.”

Making Thomas the highest-paid safety in the NFL would mean giving him upwards of $13MM per year, topping Eric Berry‘s mammoth six-year, $78MM deal. At the time of signing in 2014, the Seahawks’ four-year, $40MM extension with Thomas put him ahead of all other NFL safeties, but he has since been leapfrogged by five others: Berry, teammate Kam Chancellor, Reshad Jones (Dolphins), Lamarcus Joyner (Rams), and Harrison Smith (Vikings).

Will the Seahawks put him atop the heap once again? It’s hard to see that happening after months of mulling trade possibilities, including a swap with the Cowboys. Dallas balked at giving up a second-round pick for Thomas, however, so he remains in the team’s plans – for now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.

Extra Points: Manziel, Thomas, Bolts, Browns

It does not appear the Johnny Manziel saga will return to the NFL until at least the end of the decade. Manziel’s two-year contract with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats is a binding deal, and CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets no escape clause for the purposes of venturing to the NFL exists in the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The CFL previously voted on a possible escape-hatch option, but the proposal was rejected. La Canfora adds Manziel’s professional football options will come exclusively in Canada for the next two years (Twitter link). The NFL may be a faraway bridge considering how the former Heisman Trophy winner fared in his two years with the Browns and the many months that went by without any team showing significant interest.

As for Manziel’s deal, La Canfora reports (on Twitter) the 25-year-old passer will earn a $122K base salary in 2018. An additional $10K signing bonus is included, as well as an $18K housing stipend. La Canfora adds $10K escalators will trigger if Manziel hits six-, 10- and 14-game benchmarks this season. He’ll receive a $120K bonus if he plays in half the snaps, per JLC, and a $75K offseason bonus is due on March 1, 2019. Manziel’s 2019 salary spikes to $202K, and the same incentives are present.

Shifting back to the NFL, here’s the latest:

  • In supporting his former Seahawks teammate, Richard Sherman revealed a bit about Earl Thomas‘ goals for what will be his third NFL contract. “I think Earl Thomas deserves the money he’s asking for,” Sherman told former teammate and current NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson on Saturday (via NFL.com). “I think he deserves to be compensated as the top safety in the league. Whether Seattle does that or not is up to them.” Financial figures haven’t really emerged regarding this potential standoff, but if the Seahawks are to pay top dollar for their three-time All-Pro defender, it will cost them more than $13MM per year. And that could be a bridge too far for a retooling team that’s dangled Thomas in trades. When Thomas agreed to his initial Seattle extension, his $10MM-per-year salary paced NFL safeties. Five are now ahead of him.
  • Hue Jackson has repeatedly said he would like Tyrod Taylor to start throughout this season. But cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot does not see the Browns opting to re-sign Taylor after this season. She expects Mayfield to make a serious charge for the starting role at some point this season. If it turns out Taylor is a catalyst that leads the Browns to a major turnaround, Cabot expects him to hit the market as a coveted commodity — and one the Browns will not be paying for — in 2019.
  • The Chargers drafted Kevin White‘s younger brother, Kyzir White, in the fourth round. And the Bolts will move Kyzir from safety to linebacker, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Denzel Perryman has one of Los Angeles’ linebacker spots locked down, with Kyle Emanuel and former seventh-round pick Hayes Pullard tentatively slotted in the other spots. The Bolts also drafted USC’s Uchenna Nwosu in the second round. But it doesn’t appear White will factor into the Bolts’ safety picture behind Jahleel Addae and Derwin James at this time.
  • The Saints gave UDFA tight end Deon Yelder $90K guaranteed to sign, Joel Erickson of The Advocate notes. A former wide receiver recruit at Western Kentucky, Yelder spent time behind current Rams tight end Tyler Higbee and current Seahawks left tackle George Fant while with the Hilltoppers prior to receiving plenty of playing time last season. New Orleans has struggled to replace Jimmy Graham and recently cut Coby Fleener. Yelder will try to make a team that has 37-year-old Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill atop its depth chart.
  • In a lower-stakes matter, the Patriots have $215 committed to Malcolm Butler on this year’s payroll, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Apparently, one day of workout cash last offseason didn’t get tallied until now.

Cowboys Still Interested In Earl Thomas

It appears the Cowboys’ refusal to send a second-round pick to the Seahawks for Earl Thomas did not squash their interest in acquiring the three-time All-Pro safety. The Cowboys remain in the Thomas market, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, but it’s unclear how badly the franchise wants to execute a deal.

Moore reports the Cowboys are still interested in trading for Thomas. However, despite a rather interesting safety setup that features Jeff Heath and 2017 sixth-rounder Xavier Woods as the penciled-in starters, they aren’t desperate for his services. Moore notes they will be willing to wait out the Seahawks’ situation with Thomas.

John Schneider does not expect his superstar safety to hold out, despite repeated threats at doing so, and the Seattle GM reiterated that’s the sense he’s getting.

My sense is that he wants to be here,” Schenider said Thursday, via ESPN Seattle’s Jessamyn McIntyre (Twitter link). “I haven’t got that sense from his agents at all.”

The Cowboys are searching for safety help, and while it’s a good year to do that — with Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro still oddly unattached nearly two months into the 2018 league year — Thomas brings a much higher pedigree. The soon-to-be 29-year-old defender remains one of the top players at his position, and the Texas native surely wouldn’t be upset if the Cowboys acquired him.

Despite Dallas’ need at safety, the team didn’t inquire about trading up for Derwin James once he fell in Round 1, Moore reports, and selected an offensive lineman in Round 2 and a wideout in Round 3. Executive VP Stephen Jones said the team considered drafting a safety, and Jerry Jones said the team is interested in finding veteran help. Jerry Jones added post-draft that the Cowboys have cornerbacks who can play safety, perhaps indicating Byron Jones‘ shift to cornerback may not be permanent.

Moore writes that Thomas can help facilitate this by holding out and/or refusing to sign a Seahawks extension. One year remains on his deal. But for now, Seattle brass continues to publicly state they expect Thomas to remain their secondary’s centerpiece this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Balked At Trading Second-Rounder For Earl Thomas

Earl Thomas appears to be staying put in Seattle, but the Cowboys’ discussions about a deal that would send the All-Pro safety to Dallas hit a snag when the prospect of second-round compensation surfaced.

The Cowboys did not want to surrender their 2018 second-round pick for Thomas, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. While a third-rounder and “a lot more” may have been enough to seal this deal, per Rapoport, the sides could not come to an agreement and Thomas remains a Seahawk.

Dallas ended up taking Connor Williams with the No. 50 overall pick. Thomas is entering his age-29 season and has one more year remaining on his contract. Should he reach free agency in 2019, it’s possible the Cowboys could pursue him again then. But for now, the three-time All-Pro remains as the centerpiece of the revamped Seattle secondary.

John Schneider characterized Thomas-centric trade talks as discussions that did not reach the final stages. The Seahawks had set a higher price — reportedly at a first- and third-round pick — for Thomas in the weeks leading up to the draft, but it appears they lowered their price come draft weekend. But no team was willing to meet the reduced asking price.

Set to move Byron Jones to cornerback, the Cowboys are rather thin at safety. They are on the lookout for veteran help at the position, per Jerry Jones.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.