Seahawks’ Earl Thomas reaches goal of being the highest-paid NFL safety
Earl Thomas will stay with Seattle through 2018 with a four-year, $40 million contract extension
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON – This was one time Earl Thomas’ famous closing speed almost backfired.
Running late to a news conference Tuesday morning to announce his new four-year, $40 million contract extension, Thomas tried to play a little hurry-up.
But as Thomas turned left onto Seahawks Way, in front of the welcoming sign recently changed to commemorate the team’s Super Bowl victory, a policeman did what few have been able to do to Thomas in recent years — bring him to a halt.
Thomas was, he said, “only going 30’’ on a street marked for 25 mph.
And typifying a feel-good day for Thomas and the Seahawks, he was released with just a warning.
“I didn’t try to bulldog him and say, ‘My name is Earl Thomas,’ because then he’d be like, ‘Man, this dude is cocky,’ and give me a ticket,’’ Thomas said. “But he let me off. That’s the moral of the story.”
The larger theme of the day was the commitment made by Thomas and the Seahawks to each other and the commitment to keep together the core of the team that won the franchise’s first Super Bowl in February.
Thomas’ new deal means he will stay with Seattle through at least the 2018 season, playing free safety alongside strong safety Kam Chancellor, who last year signed a new contract through the 2017 season.
Soon, the team is expected to sign cornerback Richard Sherman to a new contract, securing three-fourths of the Legion of Boom secondary (the fourth founding member, Brandon Browner, recently signed with the New England Patriots).
“I think I am very committed to this organization,’’ Thomas said. “And just to see that back, that love back.’’
Still, Thomas, who turns 25 next week, wanted the deal to reflect that many consider him the best free safety in football. It was no accident that his contract, in terms of yearly salary, exceeded, if barely, that of New Orleans’ Jairus Byrd, who recently signed what had been the top deal for a safety at six years, $54 million.
Thomas acknowledged he wanted to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL and texted Seahawks general manager John Schneider recently that the deal could be done as soon as Seattle reached a number setting him apart from the others at his position.
“I compete in everything I do,’’ he said. “And I want to set that bar. That was my goal. … It’s not about the money to me. It’s just about separating myself in anything I do. That’s it.’’
Thomas said he hadn’t been worried about the contract, but said its completion was “A relief. … I definitely wanted to get it over with before we started OTAs (organized team activities) and (training) camp.’’
For the Seahawks, securing Thomas was one of the most crucial offseason goals. They had largely stayed silent during NFL free-agency, other than re-signing a few of their own, to save up the salary-cap space necessary to take care of Thomas — and, possibly within a week or so, Sherman.
“We’ve had a plan through free agency,’’ Schneider said. “And I think everybody has seen the discipline we have had in order to get some of these things accomplished and try to keep as many of our core players together as we possibly can.’’
Thomas said he expected the signing of Sherman — who hung in the back Tuesday — to happen soon.
“Sherm has everything under control,” Thomas said. “He’ll take care of it.’’
Tuesday marked exactly four years and one week that the Seahawks made Thomas the 14th overall choice in the 2010 NFL draft.
Schneider recalled the nervousness of that draft, when the Seahawks took left tackle Russell Okung with the sixth choice, thinking there was no way Thomas would last until they got a chance to select again.
“I thought that was it, right after we picked Russell,’’ Schneider said. “I thought Cleveland was taking Earl.’’
That draft, instead, unfolded exactly as Seattle hoped. So too, has Thomas’ career as he has made three consecutive Pro Bowls.
Thomas also spoke of having grown into a man during his time in Seattle. The presence of 1-year-old daughter Kaleigh Rose, there along with numerous other family members, gave evidence to other changes in Thomas’ life during his years as a Seahawk.
What won’t change now though, he said, is the drive and fire that got him to be the first safety to earn $10 million a season.
“I’m just excited to prove who I am again,’’ he said. “And see if I can get better.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. On Twitter @bcondotta