In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks used their first round pick (#14) on a free safety from the University of Texas, Earl Thomas. Shortly after, Seattle started to form a dominant defense as some of their other defensive selections in later drafts, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and KJ Wright, just to name a few, blossomed into superstars.
After the 2012-2013 season, the Seattle defense was given the nickname, “The Legion of Boom.” They were known for playing extremely physical and creating a lot of turnovers for their offense. In 2013-2014, the Seattle Seahawks finished with a 13-3 record and capped off the year claiming their first ever Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Shortly thereafter, the Seahawks had a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots which led to turmoil in the locker room. The Legion of Boom slowly was dissembled as Brandon Browner was not resigned, Kim Chancellor was forced to retire due to injury and Richard Sherman was not brought back after rupturing his achilles. Earl Thomas was the last of the bunch to depart Seattle after not being signed to a long term deal.
In 2014, after capturing their first super bowl victory, Seattle signed Earl Thomas to a 4 year deal. The deal was worth up to $40 million with $27.72 million guaranteed according to SI.com. This meant that after the 2018 season, one of the best free safeties in the league would hit the free agent market again.
Many thought that Seattle would bring him back and do their best to keep him as a Seahawk for the remainder of his career. There is no doubt that Earl Thomas will go down as one of the greatest players to ever put on a Seahawk uniform, but given the circumstances of the time, Seattle did not feel right bringing him back. In the 2016 season, Earl Thomas suffered a season ending injury against the Carolina Panthers when he collided with teammate, Kam Chancellor, and broke his leg. After his injury, he hinted at retirement:
While it is obvious he did not retire, his tenure in Seattle was coming to an end. After the 2017 season, Thomas had just one year left on his contract and was looking to be extended before the start of the 2018 season. He threatened to hold out of training camp and many media members around the NFL world were claiming that Seattle should pay him as he is considered one of the best safeties in the league.
During Thomas’ tenure with Seattle, he put up tremendous numbers and earned his respect as one of the best in the business:
28 INTs, 2 TDs, 11 FFs, 664 Comb Tackles, 465 tackles, 11 tackles for loss.
Seattle remained hesitant on bringing back to a long term deal for multiple reasons. First, the Legion of Boom was slowly but surely leaving. Secondly, Thomas was coming off a bad injury and on top of that, was aging. Thirdly, the Seahawks wanted to give complete control to Russell Wilson and felt that Thomas was continuing to be a distraction in the locker room.
When Earl Thomas ended his holdout in the 2018 offseason, he returned to the Seahawks and decided to play without being extended. While he sat out during practices, he suited up on game days and played hard for his teammates. Ultimately though, his season came to a halt in week 4 after suffering yet another season ending injury. In the moment, Thomas knew this would affect his leverage in negotiating another long term contract with the Seahawks and took his frustration out on the Seahawks.
After a 8 year tenure in Seattle, his last image as a Seahawk is him flipping off his head coach Pete Carroll. While Carroll took the high road in all of this, it was evident in this moment that Earl Thomas wasn’t as great of a teammate as he was perceived to be. It was his teammates that made me look like a better leader. It was the leadership of Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner that masked the poor sportsmanship of Thomas. There is no disputing that Thomas is one of the best safeties to ever play in this game, but Seattle made the right move in letting him go. I said it then and I say it again today.
This time around though, it was the Baltimore Ravens who got exposed to the true colors of Earl Thomas. Recently, after a fight with one of his teammates, the Baltimore Ravens decided to terminate their relationship with Earl Thomas after signing him to a 4 year deal in the 2019 offseason.
But, it was not just the recent fight that led to Thomas being let go by Baltimore.
Last year, after a week 4 loss, Thomas had a confrontation with one of his teammates in the locker room. This past offseason, Thomas was involved in a domestic violence case that he did not disclose to the Ravens organization. He was also reported as showing up late for work and it was capped off with a fight on Friday.
Those who doubted the move by Seattle years ago are now changing their minds and realizing that Seattle saw something that the public did not. Think about the past two coaches Thomas has played for: Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh. Two of the most player friendly coaches in the entire NFL. If Thomas struggled to make it work with them, how is he going to fit into a team culture where the head coach is a stickler for discipline and showing up on time.
Talent does not excuse poor behavior, just ask Antonio Brown. Every single player is required to show up and show out each and every day of the season.
What comes next for the former Pro-Bowler is still up in the air. Many believe he will be suiting up for the 2020 season and the frontrunners appear to be the Texans, Cowboys and 49ers. As a Seahawks fan, I would love to face off against Earl Thomas twice a year.
Regardless where he ends up, it’s quite funny how the world works. There is a common saying that goes “what comes around goes around.” In other words, karma will always work its way back towards you. After Earl flipped off Coach Carroll and the rest of his teammates, his own teammates in Baltimore returned the favor by figuratively flipping him off and wanting him off the team.