The issue with Earl Thomas’ trade demands

July 17th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Yesterday Earl Thomas played his latest card, demanding an extension or trade via Instagram (how very 2018).

Fans have since been debating the merits of paying Thomas or trading him. Most, it seems, want to see a conclusion one way or another.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with Thomas’ demand though.

The Seahawks have seemingly been willing to trade Earl for months. Thus we endured the slow dance into the draft with Dallas.

They’ve already granted his wish. They don’t want to extend his contract so they’re open to dealing him. And nobody took the bait.

Maybe his next Instagram post should be aimed at the Cowboys?

‘Make a reasonable trade offer and let’s finally get this done’

If Dallas is only willing to offer a day three pick (for example, a fourth) for a player they know will be a free agent in a matter of months, should the Seahawks just gift Earl Thomas to a NFC rival? Of course not. There has to be something in it for them. Otherwise, they might as well just wait it out and see what kind of comp pick they get in the future.

It’s very easy to just say ‘pay him or trade him’. Not paying him is clearly an attempt to learn a lesson from the Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett third contracts. Thomas, after all, threatened to retire just over 18 months ago. He’s missed seven games in the last two seasons. Surely most will understand Seattle’s conservative approach, even if you’d prefer to extend his deal?

‘Just trade him’ comes down to a team making a fair offer. The Seahawks can’t force Dallas to offer a second or third round pick. Seattle paid a second rounder for Sheldon Richardson and a 2+3 for Duane Brown. You can’t blame them for wanting a similar offer for a better player.

So it’s time for Thomas to aim his frustration at the team he wants to join, not the team currently willing to use him in 2018. The Dallas Cowboys are the reason there hasn’t been a conclusion to this saga.

The moment they offer a fair deal, this gets done.

What are they waiting for?

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New podcast: Farewell Kam Chancellor & more

July 5th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

In this latest podcast we talk about the great career of Kam Chancellor, discuss a number of Seahawks topics and Kenny even indulges me in some brief World Cup talk. Have a listen…

 

Kam Chancellor is retiring

July 1st, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

During the Pete Carroll era, I think there are three players other teams really coveted.

Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor.

That’s not a slight on Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin and others. There’s just something about that trio. Wilson because of his position, playmaking and uniqueness. Lynch and Chancellor because of their tone-setting, brutal physicality and talent.

Football is a physical game. It’s more fun when you’re the intimidator rather than the finesse, efficiently schemed machine. Lynch and Chancellor developed the LOB culture in Seattle. They more than anyone else connected the offense and defense.

The fear factor they both created might never be seen again. It was a pleasure to witness. Seattle were the team that didn’t just beat an opponent — they also beat them up. Thus those long runs where opponents would lose the following week after facing Seattle. It was real.

The hit on Vernon Davis in 2012 and the sledgehammer delivered to Demaryius Thomas in the Super Bowl are two of the defining plays of the Carroll era. Here was Seattle, through Chancellor, sending a message. Not just to two individual players or an opponent. This was a message to the league.

Chancellor wasn’t just a huge physical presence though. It appears he was the guy to his team mates. The leading alpha. He was also an exceptional football player, worthy of being remembered not just for the big hits but also for his skill and football ability.

Increasingly this team is starting to look very, very different. Legendary players are moving on. Rather than spend a lifetime agonising over that one play at the end of that one game, we’d all be better off recalling how incredible it was to watch this team grow from nothing to become a Championship band of brothers.

Kam Chancellor was one of the best players in the NFL, on one of the best teams in recent memory, on undoubtedly one of the all-time great defenses.

And it was fun to watch.

 

Podcast: Discussing Frank Clark’s future in Seattle

June 28th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

In this new podcast, Kenny and I discuss the contract extension for Danielle Hunter in Minnesota and how it potentially impacts Frank Clark.

 

Five hopes for the 2018 season

June 22nd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Firstly, if you missed the recent podcast don’t forget to check it out:

1. The Seahawks fix the run

It’s popular these days to try and diminish the importance of the running game. Regular readers will know I’m not convinced by the statistical arguments that suggest the run is overrated. Clearly you can create a somewhat convincing case based on situational stats and recent league trends. I just happen to believe there are certain things you can’t measure. Including the complete importance of a truly threatening running game.

I think this Tweet sums it up:

The Seahawks sold out to stop the run in this game, focusing almost their entire attention on Leonard Fournette. They were willing to challenge Blake Bortles to beat them. And he took the opportunity in what was undoubtedly his cleanest game of the season (and possibly his career).

I suspect many teams were willing to risk Russell Wilson beating them in 2012-14. They knew stopping Marshawn Lynch was the key. And even when they succeeded, as was occasionally the case, the attention Lynch drew often made life so much easier for the quarterback.

It’s probably one of the reasons they were a lot more successful ‘getting by’ on the O-line. Paul McQuistan was their starting left tackle for eight games in 2013. You’d barely notice aside from that one game in St. Louis.

If you can force teams to dedicate their focus to stopping the run, undoubtedly there are benefits to be felt. It might be difficult to quantify this but should you really even need to? Does everything need a number these days?

There’s also the cultural benefits of being a tough, physical running team. Lynch clearly inspired the LOB. The two key sections of Seattle’s team worked off each other, sharing the same attitude and intensity. It’s no coincidence that Seattle has lost the fear factor they once had since the running game collapsed.

2. Less politics please (don’t judge)

I’m not the type of person to write the words ‘stick to sports’ in a Tweet. I’m also not the type of person who wants players, fans or media to bury their heads in the sand and ignore big issues that need to be discussed.

That said, I think there’s too much politics in everyday life at the moment. You can’t escape it. Nearly everything is politicised. I appreciate why. This is a politically charged time around the world. Social media has become a hotspot for political views.

However, sometimes it’s nice to not have to think about politics. That doesn’t mean you’re ignorant to the issues facing the world. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

Increasingly it’s harder to separate the NFL from politics. Every press conference Pete Carroll faces is always a mix of social ills and football. Every game there seems to be some kind of political strand attached. A lot of articles in the NFL media talk about politics, not football.

I’m not blaming anyone for that. I just wish that, occasionally, the NFL could go back to being a fun release.

3. A satisfactory resolution to the Earl Thomas saga

Richard Sherman wasn’t supposed to get cut. Cliff Avril wasn’t supposed to retire this way. Michael Bennett wasn’t supposed to be traded for peanuts.

Who could’ve predicted any of that back in 2013?

It seems, sadly, that the Earl Thomas saga is going to end in a similarly unsatisfactory manner.

It’ll be difficult to witness a dramatic holdout stretching into the season. The negative vibe of the Kam Chancellor holdout hurt the team. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that with Earl.

Either way a parting appears inevitable. Possibly via free agency next year.

What constitutes a satisfactory outcome? A fair deal via trade or an extension of sorts. Just something that doesn’t have the fans wringing their hands for weeks on end. Either draw a line on the situation and allow people to move on, or come to a compromise. And for either scenario to come true, it can’t be the Seahawks conceding alone. Earl Thomas has to be willing to compromise too.

4. Fresh start

The 2017 season wasn’t much fun. The Seahawks were in contention in the win column but most people knew they weren’t a genuine challenger. The injuries mounted, the run game collapsed and the defense started to toil. It was a far cry from the unbeatable excitement witnessed from the 2012 season right through to the end of that Super Bowl.

The Seahawks may never be able to recapture that magic. It’s perhaps unrealistic to think it’s even vaguely possible. However, they still have the ultimate playmaker at quarterback. They’re trying to get the running game back. They have some new, young pieces on defense supported by some exceptional veterans.

If nothing else, it’d be pleasing to witness a fresh start. A new energy. A reason to believe again.

5. A pass rusher emerges

The Seahawks’ biggest question mark on the roster is the pass rush. They have some young pieces but not a lot of proven quality outside of Frank Clark. Dion Jordan showed flashed in 2017 but has to prove he can stay healthy. The rest have to show they belong.

It’s possible we’ll spend most of the 2018 college season looking at pass rushers. That’s not a problem, the 2019 draft promises to be loaded on the defensive line. However, it would be a huge bonus if Jordan, Rasheem Green, Barkevious Mingo, Marcus Smith, Jacob Martin, Shaquem Griffin or another name really stood out and showed they can be part of the long term future. Especially with Clark set to be a free agent at the end of the season.

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New podcast: Earl Thomas holdout

June 15th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Kenny and I discuss the Earl Thomas holdout and offer some thoughts on the Seahawks offense. Check it out below.

I also want to give a special mention to Brad Linn and the whole community here. Brad set up a donation fund in his own time to help repair my laptop (broken during the draft) and sent me the money this week. Thank you to everyone who donated and especially to Brad for setting it up. You guys are incredible.

 

Some much needed perspective

June 13th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s becoming increasingly trendy to roast the Seahawks these days.

I suppose it’s something to talk about. It is June after all.

Here’s the latest offering…

Forget how they built one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, found a franchise quarterback in round three and were a yard away from back-to-back Super Bowl Championships.

Ah, but now they’ve appointed an unpopular former GM as a consultant, so they’ve clearly lost their edge.

Let’s have a bit of perspective. I thought it was worth going back to 2012 to find out what people were saying about Ryan Grigson when he became the Colts GM.

Here’s a section of a piece by ESPN:

Grigson has been listed as a future front-office star after helping to build two Super Bowl teams including the championship-winning Rams in 1999, his first season in the front office.

In 2001, Grigson became an area scout for St. Louis. He joined the Eagles as a regional scout in 2003 and gradually moved up the ladder from regional scout, to director of college scouting and eventually to director of player personnel, the job he had held for the past two seasons.

“He has been a great adviser to me and somebody I have leaned on to bounce ideas off of many times over my career,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said in a statement. “He leaves no stone left unturned in his efforts to find good players and we were lucky to have him here in Philadelphia.”

That’s Howie Roseman, the guy receiving widespread praise for building a Super Bowl winning Eagles roster in two years.

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Some thoughts on the Earl Thomas situation

June 11th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Earl Thomas wants to be paid at a time when the safety market is ice cold

There’s no obvious solution. Earl Thomas wants to be paid. The Seahawks are wary of handing out another big contract. They haven’t received any serious trade offers. And the safety market is ice cold.

While social media is currently awash with extreme views on both sides (he should be ashamed vs overly sympathetic), a conclusion isn’t forthcoming.

Why don’t they just pay him?

There’s certainly a case to be made for rewarding Earl Thomas and removing any future drama. Thomas continues to play at a high level and probably is the best safety in the league.

On the other hand, the Seahawks have been here before. Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor were all playing at a high level too. It was a nice gesture to reward all three. But none of those extensions were shown to be wise investments and the Seahawks were left carrying a lot of dead money.

It’s taken a pro-active off-season to rectify the cap problem. You can forgive the Seahawks for not rushing head first into another third contract for a player.

In the next 8-12 months they have some big decisions to make. Do they pay Frank Clark? Duane Brown? Tyler Lockett? K.J. Wright? Do they make Russell Wilson the highest paid player in the league? This is a lot to consider. If they pay Thomas today, Clark is knocking on John Schneider’s door tomorrow. Others will too. And they’ll know the threat of absence has worked.

How does the safety market play into this?

Currently it’s an ice cold market. Thomas couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and become the highest paid safety in the league. Eric Reid isn’t the only unemployed safety. Kenny Vaccaro doesn’t have a contract either.

Thomas is clearly on a different level in terms of talent — but teams are not rushing to invest in safeties. Not at the moment.

We’ve seen this happen at other positions before. The running back market has dried up completely. We might be witnessing a similar occurrence at safety.

The fact nobody has made a big trade offer is perhaps indicative of the changing financial landscape. Why were Dallas the only team seemingly interested in trading for him? Why did they only offer a third round pick? Why didn’t another team offer more?

They knew it wasn’t just a draft pick at stake. It was a massive new contract too. One they were unwilling to pay.

If that’s the case, how is Thomas going to get paid?

It’s not abundantly clear if any team is actually prepared to match his demands. It’s possible nobody is.

If that’s the case, what motivation is there for the Seahawks to pay him more than $13m a year?

If Thomas feels disrespected by that thought, he need only remind himself that the Seahawks did make him the highest paid safety in the NFL when he signed his last contract. The Seahawks, on that occasion, recognised his talent and rewarded him.

Can they really be blamed now for not handing out another mega-deal when the safety position isn’t generating big money and teams aren’t rushing to acquire Thomas and pay him?

How else will the team be approaching this?

Presumably they anticipated Thomas’ decision. It’s not surprising. They’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this.

There will be one irksome factor. They’ve actively worked to avoid any distractions this year. They’ve undertaken a reset, a fresh start. The Thomas saga carries at least some potential to clash with this approach. Will it impact players close to Thomas? How will the handling of this situation impact future negotiations with the likes of Clark and Brown?

Will Thomas hold out during the regular season? Will he play under his existing contract? If so, are the Seahawks destined to watch him walk away in free agency? Will the potential use of the franchise tag create even more conflict?

There’s much to consider.

What was the plan then?

They at least appeared to entertain the possibility of dealing Thomas pre and during the draft. The 2018 third rounder, reportedly offered by Dallas, might seem more attractive the longer this drags on. Especially if the saga continues into the season and becomes an unwelcome distraction.

You can forgive the Seahawks for not wanting to give away such a fine player though. It’s easy to be sympathetic with their situation. They likely wanted a fair trade offer for a future Hall-of-Famer. They spent a second and third rounder on Duane Brown. He’s four years older than Thomas.

Can they trade him now?

If they try to they’ll be playing with a weak hand. Teams are aware they could lose him for nothing in 2019 (and as we discovered with Jimmy Graham, a compensatory pick isn’t assured). They run the risk of having the situation become a distraction. It’s unlikely anyone is going to pony up a big trade offer at this point.

If trading him is the preferred option now (and it might be) the best case might be to hope a team becomes more aggressive closer to the season. Seattle paid a second rounder for Sheldon Richardson right before the start of the 2017 season. If a team like Dallas sees Thomas as the man to push them over the top — they might bite. So far, they’ve resisted.

It’s also entirely possible teams will look at the poor value Seattle received from the Richardson trade and think, ‘we’re not making that mistake‘.

Is there no solution at all?

I can think of only one. A compromise. Thomas accepts he won’t top Eric Berry’s salary and it won’t be a long term deal. The Seahawks increase Thomas’ pay but do so for the 2018 and 2019 season with an option for 2020.

It’s hard to imagine Thomas agreeing to those terms. He wants long term security. But if teams aren’t willing to offer a 4-5 year contract at mega-money, is such a contract his best bet? And does it protect the Seahawks against a repeat of the Chancellor, Lynch and Bennett extensions?

Someone has to compromise. Whether it’s Thomas, the Seahawks or a team willing to make a trade. Personally, I think it’s unrealistic to think the only ones who should cede any leverage are the Seahawks.

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Seahawks sign Brandon Marshall & a new podcast

May 29th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

For reaction to the Brandon Marshall signing and a lot more — check out the podcast below…

This isn’t a bad time to look for value.

Mychal Kendricks will provide a team with a serviceable linebacker at an attractive price. Dez Bryant will sign with a team at some stage.

The Seahawks have dipped into the market to add Brandon Marshall, having not drafted a receiver from a weak pool in the 2018 draft.

I struggle to find any negatives to the deal.

No doubt someone will find something to quibble about. They’ll highlight a PFF statistic that shows the Giants horrendous 2017 offense was, well, equally horrendous when Marshall was healthy. Or they’ll note his age (34) and wonder why they decided to add a player who was injured for most of last season.

It’s true that the current Marshall isn’t going to be the one who thrived in Chicago and for periods in Denver, Miami and New York (with the Jets). He might not even be the same player that battled so entertainingly with Richard Sherman in 2016 (one of the best WR vs CB matchups we’ve seen in recent years).

None of that matters though.

He’s signed a $2m contract. The Seahawks can easily cut him at any time. They can take a look, see what he has to offer, see if he fits in. Then they can make a decision.

The worst case scenario is he joins a list of big-name veterans that spent a brief period with the team before moving on. Terrell Owens and Antoine Winfield didn’t exactly destroy Seattle’s dynamic during the 2012 and 2013 pre-seasons before being cut.

The best case scenario is he finds a role on the offense. The Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson and aren’t flush with experience at receiver. There’s no guarantee Jaron Brown, Amara Darboh, David Moore, Marcus Johnson and Damore’ea Stringfellow are going to fill the void.

Now another name is added to the competition.

Bring it on.

And if anyone doubts Marshall’s willingness to come in and compete and understand his (possibly) limited/niche role on the offense — you only have to look at his contract. According to Spotrac he’s earned $79,211,648 in cash during his career so far. Yet here he is, playing for a token $2m at the very end of his career.

It speaks to a player unsatisfied with his achievements, seeking one last shot to win a Championship. A player determined to give it one last go.

This clearly isn’t about money. It’s about opportunity. The Seahawks aren’t guaranteeing him anything here. He has to win a job. Just like many other members of this roster.

By signing this contract at this stage in his career — Marshall is saying ‘I’m ready to compete‘.

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Breaking down the draft class: Jamarco Jones

May 21st, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

PFF really liked Jamarco Jones (click here). So much so, according to this video they graded him as a second round talent:

So why didn’t he go in the second round?

I think there are two reasons.

Firstly, it’s his combine performance. TEF has helped us quantify the number of truly explosive offensive vs defensive linemen entering the league in recent years:

Explosive offensive linemen at the combine:

2016 — 6
2017 — 3
2018 — 7

Explosive defensive linemen at the combine:

2016 — 26
2017 — 30
2018 — 22

This is an era of football where the best college athletes are playing defense. John Schneider references this all the time. It’s a problem that exists, it’s hurting the league and they need a solution.

Offensive tackles with fantastic physical profiles are going to be over-drafted for the foreseeable future as teams look for that solution. Kolton Miller is a fine example. He had a Lane Johnson-esque combine. He didn’t play like Johnson at UCLA but found a home in the top-20 because his combination of size, length, agility and explosive traits is all too uncommon at his position these days.

Jamarco Jones is a lot more Orlando Brown than Kolton Miller as an athlete.

Here’s his combine performance:

Height: 6-4
Weight: 299lbs
Forty: 5.50
Bench: DNP
Vertical: 24 inches
Broad: 8-6
Three-cone: 8.32
Short shuttle: 4.92

At least Orlando Brown had the excuse of being 345lbs. Incredibly, he comprehensively beat Jones in the three-cone (7.87).

Jones had the third worst vertical, third worst forty, third worst short shuttle and third worst three cone among offensive linemen.

Seattle’s starting left tackle in 2018 (Duane Brown) ran a 4.52 short shuttle, a 7.58 three cone and a 5.08 forty (despite carrying an extra 16lbs).

That’s the main reason why Jones dropped to round five. This is a league crying out for an athletic counter punch to the extreme athleticism playing defense. His combine performance likely took him off a number of draft boards.

In his NFL.com bio, an anonymous NFC Executive is quoted as saying:

“His Combine was awful. He athletic testing was reject level. It’s hard to trust a tackle to start if he has reject level testing.”

What’s the other reason he dropped?

I’ll come back to it. I want to talk about the positives first.

When Jones connects, he usually wins. There are numerous examples I could show you where he engages the block and finishes. His hand placement, power and toughness are all commendable. If he gets his hands on you, it’s very difficult to disengage or counter.

I watched three games (Iowa, USC, Michigan) and never saw an instance where he overextended and lost balance. It’s impressive at the level he played and the opponents he played against. In the BIG-10 you don’t see many elite speed rushers but you see a lot of power and physicality. He matched up perfectly well and didn’t lose many hand battles. He often deals the first blow, delivers a jacked-up punch and finishes. He’s precise with his hand placement and the punch carries precision and power. He won nearly every battle I saw where he connected with the defender.

I didn’t see him beaten by a bull rush either. There were a couple of occasions against Michigan where he was jolted back. Against Iowa I noted a snap where he was moderately pushed back into the pocket. He simply dropped the anchor and held the defender at bay long enough for the quarterback to make a clean throw.

You see a lot of snaps like this vs Rasheem Green. He connects, finishes and it’s job done:

For the most part he handles his business. I could show you multiple videos of standard pass sets where he connects and finishes. If you were wondering why he started for Ohio State despite such a poor combine, clips like this will shed some light:

He is also able to move people in the running game. He had one nice snap against Iowa where he engaged the defender at the LOS and drove him back five yards on 2nd and 3, paving the way for the running back to get a first down. He’s not a tone setting mauler per se but he was reasonable in the short yardage game and his ability to connect and finish is a positive here too.

There are examples of second-level willingness and effectiveness:

There’s also evidence of handy double team work and there were examples where he passed off one defender inside to cover a stunting pass-rusher attacking the edge. His awareness and level of comfort were impressive.

Yet he has one maddening major technical flaw I can’t get my head around.

Play inside out. Don’t get beat inside. Make sure the DE has to get you outside. Especially when you have 35 1/8 inch arms.

Too often Jones was beaten inside. I don’t know why Ohio State didn’t fix this. They didn’t come up against many great speed rushers. In the three games I watched there were multiple examples where Jones dropped too deep in his kick slide and got beat inside. He left the gate wide open. He was susceptible to a counter (spin move) or simple invited the DE to pressure the quarterback:

Was he concerned about the edge rush too much, anticipating problems against speed and overcompensating? If so, someone really needed to address this and make it clear — let that guy beat you with speed. You have the length. Make his route to the quarterback as long as possible. Trust the QB to make the throw. You’re Ohio State. You have an experienced QB and numerous playmakers.

I can’t think of any other reason why he kept leaving the B gap open to be exploited. But it’s where he was beaten. And sadly, he doesn’t have the athletic profile to recover and counter.

He needs to eliminate this from his game. He has fantastic, ideal length for the position. There are examples where he just shoves a DE to protect the arc. Use their speed to their disadvantage, use your length to run them out of the play. Don’t leave yourself open to get beat inside.

Jones was a good blocker in college with a technical flaw. That’s fixable. His athletic profile is more of a concern. A pro-training program should help. It might take time though. And he’ll need to show improvement.

His athletic limitations could be a death knell to any future starting potential. However, if he can learn to play inside out and with his ability to lock on and finish — there’s at least something to work with. It was worth a fifth round pick to find out and if he ends up being no more than a reasonable backup tackle — that’s worth a day three flier any year.

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