Over the past decade, Earl Thomas has been the NFL’s best free safety. Thomas took over that mantle from Ed Reed, who was unquestionably the holder of that title during the 2000s. Thomas, a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, has recorded multiple interceptions in eight of his nine NFL seasons, is a three-time first-team All-Pro, and has been to six Pro Bowls.
Simply put, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is as good as it gets. And this year, he will be on the free agent market.
The Green Bay Packers have a gaping hole at free safety as they enter the 2019 offseason, with no legitimate long-term options once they traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington in the middle of last year. The fit makes sense. The team has plenty of salary cap space. And for those reasons, Pro Football Focus predicts that Thomas will indeed sign in Green Bay when free agency begins.
PFF’s Mike Renner made this prediction in an article wherein he provides guesses at where each of the top free agents on this year’s market will land. And although Thomas was the only player projected to Green Bay, if he signed it would tremendously change the trajectory of the team’s defense.
In just four games last season, Thomas was on pace for one of his finest seasons. He had recorded three interceptions and five pass breakups before breaking a bone in his left leg in Arizona, landing him on injured reserve.
Now Thomas is looking for what will probably be his last big contract, as he turns 30 years old in May. Thomas’ last deal with the Seahawks, signed before the 2014 season, was a four-year contract extension that paid him $40 million. Thomas earned every dollar of that deal, but reportedly wanted a new contract last offseason, only to see the Seahawks rebuff his request.
Given Thomas’ age and recent injury concerns — he also finished the 2016 season on injured reserve with a broken leg — it’s possible that his value on the open market could be similar in terms of total dollars to that 2014 contract. Although the salary cap has risen over the past four years, Thomas also got older. However, when available he has still played at an elite level and both season-ending injuries were freak broken bones, not issues that suggest any chronic or ongoing problems.
If Thomas would be willing to agree to a $10 million per year deal in Green Bay, general manager Brian Gutekunst should jump at that opportunity. Thomas would provide the Packers with not just a reliable safety, but one who is a true playmaker, who has an excellent mind, and who can be trusted to man the deep middle of the field. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would love a player like that on his unit.
Do you think the Packers will end up signing Earl Thomas?
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