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Matt Calkins: Earl Thomas’ holdout won’t amount to winning strategy against Seahawks

Seattle  safety Earl Thomas, bottom,  is putting the pressure on the Seahawks for a new contract. (Stephen B. Morton / AP)
Seattle safety Earl Thomas, bottom, is putting the pressure on the Seahawks for a new contract. (Stephen B. Morton / AP)

SEATTLE – Dumb idea. Or maybe a great one. It all depends on what Earl Thomas wants.

If he wants to maximize his contract and continue to thrive with the Seahawks, this is absurd. If he wants to irritate the Seahawks to the point that they ship him out for the sake of their sanity, this might be smart.

Either way, Thomas may very well have played his last game for the team he helped take to two Super Bowls, which is sad. Or infuriating.

Guess it depends on how you want to feel, too.

Via Twitter Sunday, Thomas announced that he would skip this week’s three-day minicamp along with any future team activities “until my contract situation is resolved.” The “situation” is Earl wanting to extend the four-year, $40 million deal that runs through the end of the 2018 season, presumably for something worth more than the $13 million a year Chiefs free safety Eric Berry earns.

Thomas feels his future Hall of Fame production over the past eight years has earned him the right to hammer out a deal now. He is surely aware of the Seahawks’ past willingness to negotiate with stars heading into the final year of their contracts.

Earl is proud. And Earl is great. But if he thinks his current team is going to give him what he’s asking for, Earl is also delusional.

If recent history has taught us much about Seattle’s front-office nature, it’s that it can’t be bullied, shamed or intimidated. In 2015, the revered Kam Chancellor tried to hold out with three years left on his contract, only to return with no extension and two forfeited game checks.

And that was the year after the Seahawks’ second straight Super Bowl appearance, when a player of Chancellor’s caliber potentially meant the difference between another shot at a ring or not. But when it comes to this year’s Seahawks? An absent Thomas may just mean the difference between the 10th or 16th pick in next year’s draft.

There is little disputing that Thomas is still one of the top free safeties in football. Not only does his impact manifest itself via pick sixes or karate-chop touchdown preventions at the 1, but in Seattle’s shoddy record during the games he has missed over the past couple of seasons.

Earl’s stats won’t always make fans salivate, but the fear he instills in quarterbacks and route runners is what has put him in six Pro Bowls. So why don’t the Seahawks just pay him?

Easy. Because contracts should never be about what a player has done but rather what his employers think he can do.

Thomas is a 29-year-old playing a position centered around speed. A four-year extension would be a third contract that would expire when he was 33.

Do you know what happened when Michael Bennett signed his third contract? The Seahawks traded him to the Eagles before it even kicked in. How about Marshawn Lynch’s third deal? He played one injury-riddled season on it, opted not to board the bus to Minnesota, then retired.

That’s why the Seahawks won’t likely extend Thomas despite the precedent for doing so at this point in a player’s deal. Those other precedents I just mentioned are too much of a deterrent – especially when there is no urgency to keep a star in what looks to be a rebuilding phase.

I can’t help but think that ego is supplanting logic when it comes to Thomas’ decision to hold out. In a story that ran last November, he told ESPN that the Seahawks “don’t respect me like they need to,” even though he was in the middle of a contract that once made him the highest-paid safety in the league. That doesn’t smell of self-awareness so much as it reeks of self-entitlement, which is why this move seems irrational.

Unless, of course, it’s brilliant.

Remember, Thomas also sought out Cowboys coach Jason Garrett after a win Dallas last December, urging him to “come get me.” Earl’s discontent with the Seahawks and childhood dream of wearing a star on his helmet may also be driving this holdout.

Malcontents often get the trades they’re looking for regardless of their worth. Kyrie Irving can tell you that firsthand. Earl sitting on his rear may become the pain in the rear that prompts the Seahawks to deal him.

We’ll see.

Thomas may end up getting what he wants in the end. As for the Seahawks and their fans? They almost certainly won’t.


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