didn't win Defensive Player of the Year, but he's about to get paid. (Jim Dedmon/Icon SMI)
Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas isn't a free agent until the 2015 season, but according to one report, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider won't be taking any chances when it comes to losing the man who might be their best defensive player. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Seahawks have already made it clear that re-signing Thomas to an extension will be the team's offseason priority.
Selected with the 14th pick in the 2010 draft out of Texas, the 24-year-old Thomas made $2.05 million in 2013 and will nab $4.625 million in 2014, including various performance-based salary escalators. Given the level of performance he's exhibited over the last few seasons, that's quite a bargain among free safeties. Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu is making $9.125 million per year and San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle signed a five-year, $40 million deal in 2011.
Thomas received seven votes in the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award process, but there are those who would argue that he was the man deserving of the award that went to Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. In the 2013 season, Thomas set a career-high with 105 tackles and tied his single-season mark with five interceptions. More than stats, though, it's Thomas' closing speed, disciplined aggression and leadership that make him a very special player.
"I think Earl Thomas might have one of the highest football IQs I’ve ever heard of, and he studies the game to a T," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said last week. "He studies it day, night, night and day. In the morning, at night -- he’s probably studying it right now. You’ve got Kam Chancellor, who does the same thing, he studies the game to a T. So when you see [strong safety] Kam Chancellor going downhill to make those huge hits and those huge plays, and Earl going to make those, it’s because they know the play is coming. They’re not guessing out there. It’s a real testament to us as a group.”
Locking up Sherman will also be a priority, according to Rapoport, which isn't a huge surprise given the importance each player has in Seattle's NFL-best defense. The Stanford graduate, taken by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, is also poised to be a free agent in 2015. Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions in 2013, and he'll make just $1.329 million in base salary in 2014.