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Earl Thomas running again; DeShawn Shead’s return to Seahawks trickier

By Gregg Bell Tacoma News Tribune

Earl Thomas posted video indicating his eventual return. But the return of another Seahawks starting defensive back is much trickier.

Cornerback DeShawn Shead is beginning his long recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He is a restricted free agent. The Seahawks have until Thursday at 1 p.m. to give Shead a tender offer.’s Sheil Kapadia cited a league source Tuesday stating Seattle will not tender Shead. That would make him an unrestricted free agent.

Usually, a team not tendering a restricted free agent an offer signals that player’s exit.

But Shead’s situation is unique.

So unique, when asked last week by The News Tribune off the podium at the NFL combine in Indianapolis how tricky Shead’s situation is to the tender-offer decision, Seahawks general manager John Schneider didn’t want to answer.

“Ummm…,” Schneider said, before concluding: “The guy’s just had really bad luck.”

Schneider meant with the timing of Shead’s injury trying to make a cut outside while in coverage during the second half of Seattle’s loss at Atlanta Jan. 14 in the divisional playoffs. He had surgery two weeks later.

His marketability in free agency would never be lower than it is right now. He is 28 years old less than two months removed from knee reconstruction. Schneider said last week at the NFL combine Shead isn’t likely to be ready to play again until deep into the 2017, if then.

Because of that, there is a decent chance Shead re-signs with Seattle — even if it is as an unrestricted free agent for at or not much more than his veteran minimum of $775,000 in 2017. Few teams, if any, are likely to offer Shead much more than that while not knowing when he’ll be able to play again on a reconstructed knee.

So instead of using the lowest, original-round tender offer of $1,797,000 that would provide the Seahawks the right of first refusal for five days after any offer Shead would get from another team after the league’s market opens Thursday, Seattle may be playing free-agent market odds. They seem to be in its favor to keeping Shead, and at a fraction of what the Seahawks’ tender cost would be to retain him.

The Seahawks are the only NFL Shead has known. He knows their defensive system, in multiple positions, and they know him. That’s especially true of defensive coordinator Kris Richard, his former position coach. Shead can continue his recovery and knee rehabilitation with the trainers and doctors that started it, in the training room that lately has been his second home.

He got married in Seattle last year to Jessica Martinez, whom he met here. They got married at the city’s fancy Four Seasons hotel, where the bride had always dreamed of being wed.

Both coach Pete Carroll and Schneider have said they want to retain Shead. He has gone from an undrafted former decathlete from Portland State just trying to make the Seahawks as a special-teams helper doing everything coaches have asked of him while on the team’s practice squad in 2012 to a free safety and strong safety to first-time, full-time starter opposite Richard Sherman last season.

“DeShawn is a great kid. He’s got really strong faith. You’d want him to be your son, you know what I mean?” Schneider said last week in Indianapolis. “His mindset is like, ‘Hey, I’m going.’

“I say he’s probably not going to be there right away; that’s just me. He’s probably got a different mindset. He’s crushing his rehab right now.”

The Seahawks signed 30-year-old cornerback Perrish Cox early this offseason to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for minimal money as insurance behind Shead’s injury.

But Seattle isn’t done adding cornerbacks.

Schneider said last week at the combine Shead’s situation makes cornerback more of a priority in free agency that begins Thursday at 1 p.m., and in the April’s draft that is loaded with top cornerbacks — including two from the Seahawks’ backyard, Washington Huskies Sidney Jones and Kevin King.

Thomas running on treadmill

The three-time All-Pro safety posted a video on Instagram Monday that is the most positive sign yet he’ll be back for the start of the Seahawks’ 2017 season.

His short film showed him running on an anti-gravity treadmill, three months plus three days after he broke his tibia trying to intercept a pass against Carolina.

“First day back running,” Thomas wrote under the post.

That backs up Pete Carroll’s optimism when the coach spoke last week at the NFL combine about the possibility of his invaluable defender returning in time for the start of next season.

Carroll said “all indications” are Thomas will recover from the broken shin to be Seattle’s starting free safety again for the 2017 opener in September. Before that, Carroll had not given an estimate for Thomas’ recovery.

“Yeah, it was a big shock, you know. It was a big shock to him. He’d never been injured before, like that,” Carroll said last week in Indianapolis. “He’s feeling very competitive about it and he’s going for it. His mentality is strong. And he’s looking forward to getting right.”

The coach had the same upbeat forecast last week for Tyler Lockett. The zooming wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner broke his tibia and fibula against Arizona on Christmas Eve.

“Both those guys have a really good chance to be there as we kick off the season,” Carroll said.

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