It is the story that won’t die. But maybe it is because there is some real life in it. Ever since Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks made his now notorious approach to Jason Garrett asking for the Dallas Cowboys to come and get him, the speculation has run rampant about just that happening. It peaked during the draft, when there were reportedly discussions about making a trade that eventually fell through, then died off. But that buzz has returned, and it’s not just from fans. In his recent post on the subject, DannyPhantom listed both Nick Eatman and Todd Archer as believing a deal was coming. Mike Fisher has also put up a piece using “51%” to argue a deal is more likely than not.
And now Thomas himself has written a piece at The Players Tribune to explain things in his own words. The thing everyone is locking in on are the two options he puts forth as what he wants the Seahawks to do.
Offer me an extension.
Or trade me to a team that wants me to be part of their future.
That certainly seems to leave a clear path for the Cowboys to bring Thomas to Dallas. But it also makes it obvious that it has to be on his terms, which are that he get a deal that ensures his future.
That is the real crux of the matter. This is, and always has been, a business decision for Thomas. He wants more money, and he has a limited window for getting it. His arguments are pretty straightforward, and hard to dispute.
A lot of people talk about how short the average NFL career is. They’re right. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of talented players come and go. What you discover pretty quickly is that in order to survive, football demands everything of you — not just physically and mentally, but emotionally as well.
And my feeling is, if you do manage to survive — and especially if you thrive — in this league, then that’s something that should be acknowledged. It’s something that should be respected.
If you’re risking your body to deliver all of this value to an organization, then you deserve some sort of assurance that the organization will take care of you if you get hurt. It’s that simple. This isn’t new, and this isn’t complicated. It’s the reason I’m holding out — I want to be able to give my everything, on every play, without any doubt in my mind.
Simply put, Thomas doesn’t want to leave Seattle. He’s just unwilling to play the last year of his contract out (as they apparently want him to) and risk injury that would end his career or severely damage his potential to get a lucrative deal as a free agent.
This article is also part of what has been a long campaign by Thomas to pressure the Seahawks into giving him what he wants while drumming up interest from other teams. As has been discussed elsewhere, a player has limited weapons to bring to this fight. He is using the biggest one, holding out, and continues to work the media and public with this article in the only other real step he can take.
Just from a factual basis that leaves the Cowboys exactly where they have been all along, waiting to see if there is a mutually agreeable price in draft picks for the trade (Seattle seems uninterested in involving any other players). And that would still mean working out a deal with Thomas that meets his financial expectations without putting the team into a bad situation with his contract. They can afford to pay him, as the Cowboys have a favorable cap situation for this year and next, but they don’t want to use too much space for a veteran when they still have so many young and coming players of their own to take care of in the next few seasons - and getting things worked out with DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, and others takes precedence over bringing Thomas into the fold. The Cowboys remain committed to “growing their own” over big-money free agent signings (or trades, in this case).
While at first glance it seems things have not changed, the growing mentions of the deal being likely, by writers and analysts that do not throw baseless speculation out for clicks, is certainly provocative. It certainly appears that something is coming from someone at the Star to indicate that Dallas believes a deal is now likely. That may be because the holdout has actually begun. Had Thomas reported to camp, things would likely have died out. But he’s pushed his chips into the middle of the table now.
It still leaves that ball in Seattle’s court, however. They could just let him sit out and see if he has the determination to take the financial hit. They could open negotiations to extend his current deal. They could find a trade partner. They could even release him outright, although that seems to be by far the least likely outcome.
The Cowboys can only take action if that phone rings (assuming they don’t do these things in a more modern way now) to discuss what it would take to make a trade happen. Until then, they are just waiting and watching.
But the Thomas article makes a few pertinent points. First, he really seems to have no faith in the Seahawks taking care of him. In a way, this article is a condemnation of how the NFL treats all of its players. This is a highlighted line, and has been quoted by others on social media.
In the NFL, no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve accomplished, teams are constantly reminding you that you don’t matter.
He certainly has a point. The league treats the players as disposable commodities, and has resisted guarantees for, well, ever. The NFLPA is the weakest players’ union, and has had difficulty getting its large membership to stand together to change things. That may be a different story in a couple of years when the current CBA runs out, but for now, Thomas is taking the only steps he can to try and maximize his earnings. This is just the latest skirmish in what is shaping up to be looming war between the league and the players.
The second thing Thomas wants to drive home is that he believes he is worth one more big (or at least decent-sized) payday.
But I’m standing strong on this — because I’ve got to. I’m standing strong when it comes to getting what I deserve. I’ve been one of the best defensive players in this league for the better part of a decade, and the numbers show that this team plays much better with me than without me. Beyond that, I still have some great years of football left in my tank. I’m not even close to slowing down. I’m still working to get better.
If the break with his current team is unavoidable, the Cowboys will be the landing spot everyone expects - and for once, the prevailing wisdom is right. That does not mean some other team couldn’t swoop in and make a better offer to both Seattle and Thomas - but that would be a bit of a surprise. And the growing buzz about him coming to Dallas being more likely than not is an indication, at least, that the team is prepared to sit down and talk seriously about what it takes to get this done.
Not the least important aspect of this is whether Seattle can still salvage this and have Thomas back on the field in a Seahawks uniform. Thomas maintains a level-headed and realistic tone throughout his piece, but he does hint that things may have already gotten to the other side of the Rubicon.
As a rookie, especially on these Seahawks, you’re eased into this culture of brotherhood. You develop this love and respect for the guys you play with, and the fans you play for. That makes you want to give everything to the team. And that’s a special feeling. But what you don’t realize, is that, once you’ve given everything — once you’ve gotten all those battle scars that come with success — your team doesn’t value you the same. There’s no thank yous in this league.
There’s only goodbyes.
We want to analyze the facts and look at the variables to come up with something concrete, but this situation makes that difficult. And with the Cowboys, we have learned that there are often clues dropped to writers with good sources inside the Star. This is looking more and more like one of those situations where the team is tipping its hand.
For some time, the situation concerning Thomas to Dallas has been “we have to wait for the other shoe to drop”. Well, that shoe looks like it is teetering on the edge right now. So you may be tired of the Earl Thomas stories. There have certainly been a lot of them, probably more than were really needed.
That may be changing, because things may be coming to a head. Undoubtedly, that is what Thomas is trying to do with this rather impressively well-written article.