SEATTLE – As the Seahawks ended training camp Thursday, what was the biggest story when practices began – Earl Thomas’ holdout – almost felt like an afterthought.
He’s not only been unseen for the last three weeks, but also largely untalked about, the Seahawks appearing to have gone about their business without missing much of a beat.
Of course, that’s easier to do in the preseason when the games don’t matter.
But maybe it’s just the fact that there has been so much other change – there’s also no Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril – that the absence of Thomas hasn’t seemed to stick out the way, say, Chancellor’s did when he held out in 2015.
Or maybe it’s also that those who were there then say the team learned a little bit of a lesson from the Chancellor situation.
“I think we made the mistake last time to focus on Kam while he was out,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner earlier this week. “So we kind of just need to move forward and when he comes (back), be ready to accept him.”
The official end of camp Thursday marked three weeks since the Seahawks first took the field.
In that time, Thomas has missed 14 official training camp practices, a day-before-game walkthrough and a game.
Thomas can be fined $40,000 for every practice missed and also can be fined 25 percent of his $1.9 million signing bonus. That’s on top of $84,435 he could be fined for missing mandatory minicamp in June.
Add that up and it’s roughly $1.2 million, fines the Seahawks have indicated they will try to collect at some point.
But there’s zero thought the rising penalties are compelling Thomas – who wrote via Twitter in June that he would not report until he has a new contract – to rethink his stance.
There’s also no thought the Seahawks will cave in.
The team has no plans to negotiate with Thomas with all evidence pointing to the Seahawks being more than happy to draw this out as long as Thomas is willing.
Asked this week if the team had talked to Thomas, coach Pete Carroll said simply “no” with a tone that suggested he’d almost rather talk about Malik McDowell’s medical issues than the future of one of the team’s greatest-ever players.
Other sources have confirmed there is no current negotiating between the team and Thomas – who has one year remaining on his contract with a salary of $8.5 million – and no thought there will be any time soon.
So what happens next?
Via the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Thomas has to report by week 10 (or Nov. 13) or risk his contract tolling.
That may be the best bet at this point – that Thomas begrudgingly reports knowing he has no real choice if he wants out of Seattle at the end of the season.
The Seahawks will also continue to listen to any trade offers that come along. But indications are that trade talks haven’t been as plentiful as fans might think they should be given Thomas’ career accomplishments – six Pro Bowls in eight years, stamping himself as one of the best free safeties in NFL history.
One reason is that any team trading for Thomas is almost certainly going to want to know it will be able to get a long-term deal done with him while also having the need and the cap room to sign a player who turns 30 next May to the kind of multi-year deal upwards of $13-14 million a year that Thomas surely wants.
There may be only a couple of teams that would have that desire. Dallas, though, may be one of them, and Thomas obviously would love to play for the Cowboys. So maybe something still happens between Seattle and Dallas, especially as the regular season nears and it becomes clearer he won’t report.
Seattle also appears for the moment to be sticking to wanting to get at least a second-round pick for Thomas, knowing it could get at least a third-rounder as compensation were Thomas to leave after the season as an unrestricted free agent.
The Seahawks also know they have the leverage of the capability of putting a franchise tag on Thomas for 2019.
It’s not thought the tag is something Seattle would want to do – the tag number would likely be at least $11.3 million and Thomas would still be unhappy and could again hold out. The Seahawks would seem to want to solve the Thomas issue one way or another as soon as possible and not have it linger into another season.
But don’t expect the Seahawks to tell Thomas it’s something they won’t do, assuming the two ever talk again.
For now, Seattle seems content to go with what it has in the secondary, with the Seahawks for the moment having settled on a starting safety tandem of Bradley McDougald at strong and Tedric Thompson at free.
Seattle will be even more content should that duo play well Saturday night against the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers, who figure to be a much sterner test than were the Colts and a recuperating Andrew Luck last week.
But the Seahawks also have other options at safety, with veteran Maurice Alexander potentially seeing his first action against the Chargers and Carroll this week also talking up the play of recent free agent signee Lorenzo Jerome, who made the 49ers’ roster out of camp a year ago.
None, of course, will be Thomas.
But in a year when the Seahawks have already walked away from so many other big names they seem increasingly willing to prove to Thomas that he shouldn’t doubt that life can and will go on without him.
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