There was some odd news in Seattle this week that indicated Earl Thomas was out for personal reasons. His contract dispute with Seattle was well known so some thought it had to do with that while others thought this was a deactivation to keep him healthy for a trade. Chris Mortensen of ESPN shed more light on the situation Sunday morning.
The Seahawks are considering a significant fine to Earl Thomas for conduct detrimental for twice missing practice. No final decision made. He’s expected to play vs. Cowboys AND the Chiefs have emerged as a possible trade partner if Thomas is dealt this year, per sources.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 23, 2018
Conduct detrimental in the CBA is a pretty powerful weapon for teams. A team is allowed to fine a player up to one weeks salary under the conduct rules which for Thomas is $500,000. That is a big chunk of change. Teams also have the right to suspend players up to four games without pay if the player’s conduct is considered detrimental to the club.
Thomas’ situation with the Seahawks has gotten ugly and if it gets that bad Seattle has a lot of financial leverage here. While I dont know if any agreement was made after his summer holdout he could have gotten significant fines for that time as well as triggering a $475,000 bonus forfeiture/repayment obligation. If Thomas fails to report for practice that could (or maybe did) trigger a second forfeitable breach of his contract. That would increase that forfeiture from $475,000 to $1.9 million as a 2nd breach in the same year can lead to the maximum forfeiture. Combine that with a conduct fine and potential suspension and you are looking at over half his salary being lost for the year in an ugly dispute. I would also imagine he has lost his termination pay protection for the year after this, though the only thing that prevents is a double dip as he would likely get a decent salary as a free agent. Things rarely would get this ugly but it is worth noting the options that Seattle has here. The most famous case of in season conduct violations came in the Terrell Owens/Eagles dispute back in 2005 which was responsible for shaping the current conduct rules as they relate to suspensions.
A team trading for Thomas would be required to take on the balance of his salary for the season. That is $7 million right now. There are probably 20 teams that could afford him depending on how tight they want to be on their salary cap. The Chiefs would be very tight barring restructures but would fall into the tail end of that category. Dallas would have no problem.
Seattle has asked for too much in return for Thomas based on reports but it would seem that this may be like the Duane Brown situation from last season where he held out on the Texans for some time before being traded to Seattle. It is less likely that Thomas will get the extension he wants at this stage similar to Brown last year. That said he may find it better to play with another team that will likely extend him in 2019 than continue with Seattle who has shown little interest in keeping him as part of the team. The Seahawks traded a 3rd and a future 2nd round pick for the rights to Brown and a 5th round pick. Offensive linemen are usually better investments as they age so my guess is they can bump those by a round (4th and future 3rd) and get a deal done.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.