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BTB mailbag: Is Earl Thomas just playing fans and his own team for a better deal?

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The disgruntled Seahawks player continues to prompt questions about just what is going on with him.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Thomas continues his staredown with his own team.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard to remember a player for another team that has so fascinated Dallas Cowboys fans the way Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks has.

From Anthony in Orlando: I’m a life long cowboys fan. I remember repeated occasions when players would tease Cowboys fans about coming to Dallas only later to get a better deal or manipulate his current team. DRC was a recent example a couple years ago when he was with the Jets. He knew the Cowboys had a need in the defensive backfield and started talking about how he’d love to play in Dallas. He later signed to stay with the Jets.

Isn’t there a good possibility Earl Thomas is doing the same thing?

Very perceptive of you, Anthony. There are excellent reasons to think that is exactly what is going on.

Our Michael Sisemore recently looked at the reasons why a deal hasn’t already been done to bring Thomas to Dallas, but this is a different angle that digs into what is really going on.

The key facts to keep in mind are that Thomas is still under contract to the Seahawks, and that he wants more money to stay there. He is all that is left of the Legion of Boom, with even his former secondary coach, Kris Richard, now with the Cowboys. It would seem prudent for Seattle to keep him given the losses already suffered in their secondary. Normally, teams have the leverage in these kinds of situations. A player is limited in how much he can do. Reports are that he is planning to hold out of camp until his situation is resolved, which is one of the few things a player can do to really put pressure on his team.

Playing to the media and fans of other teams is one other, albeit of more limited value. But when you are in his position, you play every card you have. Since last season, when he made his much publicized plea to Jason Garrett to “come get me” when he was available, he has been mentioned by every outlet covering the Cowboys as a valuable piece to acquire, including here at BTB.

But this seems to have been a sly bit of gamesmanship all along. Garrett could hardly say much to him in such a situation, since that would have violated rules about tampering. Now, with his final year under contract, Thomas continues to play the media and fans with talk of wanting out of Seattle - unless they open up their checkbook and give him what he wants.

It makes all the sense in the world to want a big-money extension now. Who knows what might happen during the season? An injury could devastate his value to other teams. And the safety market right now is as dry as concrete in Dallas during the 100+ degree heat wave the city is suffering through. With other safeties like Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro, and Eric Reid all waiting for attractive offers, and already being available, there is not much reason for any other team to offer the Seahawks much of value in a trade. Additionally, any new team would have to then work out a new deal to Thomas’ satisfaction. That is obviously going to be very expensive, and certainly a disincentive to pursue such a course.

No, Thomas’ best hope for the money and length of contract he wants has always been right at home in Seattle. While we may get out hopes up about him reuniting with Richard and serving as a mentor to the young secondary of the Cowboys, that is just very unlikely to happen, as Sisemore laid out in his article.

On the Cowboys’ side of this, they’re not under any pressure at all to up the ante for Earl Thomas. They like him, sure. Kris Richard may love him, but if they were desperate for him, he would already be a Cowboy. As we alluded to last week, the safety market is at a complete stop right now. Nothing is likely to happen for anyone until something happens with Earl Thomas. It’s clear that the Cowboys feel a lot better about their current safeties than those outside looking in. There is no assurance that getting Thomas will put the Cowboys in the playoffs to make a deep run. Thomas is passing the mythical line of 30 years of age, and has seen some injuries recently. He also wants a huge contract that will pay him as a top safety deep into his mid 30’s.

So, yes, this is almost certainly a bit of theater to get his current team to pony up. The ball is in their court, and as has been observed by Jerry Jones, “Deadlines make deals”. Seattle may have some patience for the expected hold out, but the real deadline here is the start of the regular season, or perhaps the cut-down to the 53-man roster. They would certainly want Thomas practicing before the first game.

In any case, the Cowboys are much like their fans, spectators in this. They have talked with Seattle about what Thomas might be worth to them, but the best chance for that happening was during the draft - and Dallas elected to use their draft picks on younger talent in other positions. Now, they are going to wait and see, and may have already closed the door in any case.

You can continue to dream if you chose, but don’t expect this one to come true. Thomas is just playing to his audience, and the most important part of that is in the headquarters of the Seahawks - not at the Star in Frisco.