The identity of the Seattle Seahawks’ defense has been a dominant secondary. With that said, the three most prominent fixtures of the defensive backfield offer little certainty the “Legion of Boom” will remain intact, even for the 2018 season.
Safety Kam Chancellor recently signed a three-year extension but may be forced into retirement if he cannot be medically cleared after suffering a season-ending neck injury last November. Cornerback Richard Sherman is in the final year of his contract and there have been rumors dating back to last season that he was available via trade. Safety Earl Thomas in also in the final year of his deal and made it known he doesn’t want to play next season without a new contract in place.
All of this begs the question: Who is most likely to be playing elsewhere in 2018? Let’s examine.
Since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2011, Sherman has been arguably the NFL’s best cornerback. He’s a four-time Pro-Bowl and All-Pro selection. His technique, intelligence, reactionary skills, physicality and ball skills make him one of the best defensive players in football.
Even last season at 29 years old, there were no signs of Sherman slowing down until he ruptured his Achilles in week 10. While Sherman expects to be ready for training camp, he suffered a significant injury that affects his footwork, which is one of the most vital components to playing cornerback in the NFL.
In the final year of his contract, Sherman started last season on the trading block. Presumably, Sherman still is available via trade, but his value would seem to be diminished given the injury and his age.
Like Sherman, Thomas has an expiring contract after the 2018 season but has already told ESPN that he is considering holding out if a new deal cannot be reached. To complicate matters more, Thomas was caught on camera — after Seattle beat the Dallas Cowboys in December — approaching Jason Garrett and exclaiming, “If y’all got the chance to come get me, come get me!”
A Texas native who played college football at the University of Texas, Thomas grew up a Cowboy fan and has indicated the only other place he’d want to play is Dallas.
Dallas recently added former Seahawk defensive coordinator Kris Richard to its coaching staff and is moving Byron Jones to cornerback, opening a place to insert Thomas into the lineup. Richard and Thomas both joined the Seahawks in 2010 and have a close connection.
While it’s easy to connect the dots and believe Thomas to Dallas is a possibility, Seattle divorcing Thomas makes little sense. In eight NFL seasons, Thomas has been a six-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection. He’s arguably the NFL’s best safety and will only be 29 next season. Safeties can play into their 30s, so there is no reason to believe Thomas is nearing the end of his career.
Seattle is also not close to blowing up the roster and hitting the reset button. Led by elite quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle was won at least 10 games in every season from 2012-2016 and won nine last year. The Seahawks have won the NFC West three times over that span, won a Super Bowl and qualified for the postseason six times. Parting with its best defensive players is a foolish strategy for a team primed to compete.
With that said, Seattle has its first-round pick at No. 18 and does not pick again until No. 116. Being able to add more premium draft capital to reload the roster would be the only benefit to shipping Thomas. At the same time, no player selected in the range is likely to have the same impact as Thomas.
Aside from speculation about the Dallas connections and Thomas’s contract situation, there is little reason to believe Seattle is considering parting with one of the NFL’s best defensive backs. Sherman is the more likely candidate to be traded, but there may not be a market for a 30-year-old cornerback coming off an Achilles injury that carries a $13.2 million cap hit.
Thomas is more likely than Sherman to be playing elsewhere in 2018, but it’s more probable that the Legion of Boom will remain intact for one more year.