Month: July 2018

Why David Mulugheta has got it wrong

For those not aware, David Mulugheta is Earl Thomas’ agent.

This tweet is problematic.

Admittedly there are some fans doing what he says. Equally there are sycophants constantly tweeting their support at NFL players 24/7.

Social media has created a world of extremes. Opinions are rarely measured in any sector. Politics, sport, life. You pick a side, surround yourself with likeminded folk and never truly listen to the counter arguments.

An echo chamber.

Welcome to 2018.

The tweet above highlights one of the extremes currently festering within the always fun Seahawks twitter. Yet I suspect the majority of fans don’t have this opinion. Not in the slightest.

I haven’t done any grand study so I can’t be sure. There’s your disclaimer. I imagine though that many fans carry the following set of views:

1. They want Earl Thomas to be part of the Seahawks

2. They really like Earl Thomas and appreciate what a terrific player he’s been

3. They understand and accept his desire for a long term deal at the end of his career

4. They equally understand and accept why the Seahawks haven’t given him a big extension

For example…

At the point of publishing this article, that tweet was liked 421 times. For those not familiar with Twitter, that is significant. I skimmed through the replies. I didn’t find any push back, only people exclaiming what an incredible tweet it was.

Back to David Mulugheta…

The following quote…

“Teams can cut players anytime but players are expected to honor contracts”

…often appears in these discussions. Yet here’s the reality. The guaranteed portion of a NFL contract isn’t a secret. Todd Gurley’s new deal has $45m in total guarantees and $21.950m guaranteed at signing. I can log onto Spotrac right now and see what the true value is of the contract and how much it’ll cost the Rams to cut Gurley in each of the next six seasons.

We have all the knowledge we need of the true worth of that contract.

Gurley, like every other player signing a big second-contract extension, equally knows what the true value of the deal is. The Rams can’t ‘cut him at any time‘. Not without respecting the terms of the deal that were agreed by player and franchise. If they owe him guaranteed money, they’ll have to pay it.

This isn’t a case of capitalism being reserved for the owners, as Mulugheta suggests. It’s a simple contract that anyone can decipher, including NFL fans.

No team is doing anything sneaky or wrong by abiding to the rules of a contract. The issue here is fans, media, players and agents never seem to focus solely on the guaranteed portion of the deal. Gurley’s deal was announced as a $57.5m extension. In reality, the only number that matters is the guaranteed amount.

It’s not a $57.5m deal. It’s a $45m deal with a maximum potential value of $57.5m.

So it’s not capitalism. It’s not ignorance from fans. It’s a failure to consistently highlight a contracts true worth and structure.

There’s one other issue here too.

It’s absolutely right to expect fans to appreciate and respect the sacrifice players make for their entertainment. We can see, very evidently these days, that many NFL players give everything to the game. If you can’t acknowledge that you’re an ice cold individual.

It’s also difficult, sometimes, for the man or woman on the street to relate to a man not happy with his $8.5m salary having already agreed contracts worth $60m in his career. So while it’s right for fans to respect the sacrifice players make, it’s also important for the players (and their agents) to respect the financial world most fans live in.

For a lot of people the Seahawks are a release from every day life. The thing that helps them tune out. The thing that occupies a mind during a tough day at work. The thing they have to look forward to. The thing that makes them smile.

The logo, the team — it delivers pride and hope. And for years this team and these fans have connected in a way unique to the NFL.

That’s something for the players to remember, especially the multi-millionaire players, when their agents are talking down to fans who will never make close to a million bucks let alone $8.5m or $60m.

A final point for now. It’s perhaps also worth considering, if you’re Earl Thomas or David Mulugheta, why some fans might be somewhat negative recently.

Instagram demands, the Jason Garrett plea, and this quote when Thomas was asked about Kam Chancellor’s hold out:

“At this moment, he’s not battling with us, so I can’t really tell you what [his absence means]. . . . He’s handling his situation, [rather than] helping us. I try not to deal with that energy.”


Oh — and Duane Brown has signed a new contract.

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New podcast & how the Earl Thomas situation will play out

Here’s how this situation is probably going to play out…

1. Earl Thomas, as per the tweet above, holds out into the regular season.

2. As has been the case so far, no team will offer to trade for Thomas with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

3. Equally the Seahawks won’t be forced into extending his contract and will wait this out.

4. Thomas will have to decide if he wants to return in the opening few weeks of the season having made his point. Or he can wait it out. Yet he has to be active in at least six games to accrue a season. If he doesn’t, the 2018 season won’t count towards his contract and he’d be locked to the Seahawks through 2019.

5. In the meantime he’ll be costing himself millions. When Duane Brown held out a year ago he missed out on roughly $3.87m in salary. He also faced the prospect of $1.5m in fines for skipping training camp. Brown’s base salary was $9.3m last year and Thomas’ number in 2018 is $8.5m. So he’s due a similar number in fines and missed salary.

6. For all this point proving, Thomas will sour his relationship with some Seahawks fans and be out of pocket. Alternatively he could play the final year of his contract and cash in during free agency. Which is probably what will happen anyway, even if he holds out. Because so far nobody has shown any real interest in trading for him.

Here’s this weeks podcast. It’s an Earl Thomas free zone. Training camp preview and some running back talk. Check it out:

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A realistic projection for the Seahawks

Last week USA Today’s Nate Davis wound everyone up by projecting the Seahawks to finish 4-12 (link deliberately not included). As far as predictions go, it was akin to the big dinosaur from Jurassic World 1.

It was noisy, left a great big foot print and didn’t make any sense.

It was also easily defeated and this time didn’t require the aid of a strangely helpful velociraptor.

When Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle, he inherited a mess. The Seahawks had no building blocks and had to rely on countless roster moves to find retreads willing to scrap and fight. They were a bad team and still, somehow, won seven games and qualified for the playoffs (before beating the Saints in the wildcard).

The following year they were still pretty bad. Some green shoots emerged due to quality drafting. Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and K.J Wright were starting for the first time. The running game was much improved. Yet they still started badly and had Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.

Another 7-9 season.

If the Seahawks were ever going to be a 4-12 team under Carroll, that’s when it was going to happen.

Now the Seahawks have a legit franchise quarterback playing the peak years of his career. Only today ESPN ranked Russell Wilson the sixth best passer in the league. That’s a rise of four spots from a year ago.

Wilson proved, emphatically, that he could carry the team in 2017. The defense suffered numerous injuries, the run game was non-existent and Blair Walsh.

They were a missed field goal in week 17 away from a 10-win season. Largely due to Wilson.

The quarterback alone makes a mockery of a four-win prediction.

This doesn’t mean the Seahawks will amount to anything special in 2018. They’re going through a major transition. Big names have moved on. Another (Earl Thomas) could join them. There’s a new dependency on youth on defense. They’re hoping coaching changes on offense will lead to improved results.

There’s something to prove for a change, after years of assumed contention behind a long list of seasoned pro’s.

Questioning Seattle’s ability to make the playoffs isn’t unfair. A four-win season, however, suggests a complete and utter meltdown. Especially when you retain the likes of Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Duane Brown and others. It would be a catastrophe.

Think how bad the Seahawks had to be in Mike Holmgren’s final season in 2008. That’s what a four-win season looks like.

To think Carroll, Wilson, Wagner and co are capable of that level of hopelessness is, as Aaron Levine quite rightly put it, ‘idiotic’.

So what constitutes a realistic projection for the Seahawks?

Perhaps an outsider can only see a burning barn? The Earl Thomas saga, numerous Richard Sherman quotes, multiple big names gone, 42-7.

There are actually areas the Seahawks can improve without too much difficulty (and remember, 2017 was a nine-win season).

1. The running game

Seattle’s identity is based on being able to run the ball. The Seahawks emphatically could not run the ball last season. You don’t need me to repeat all the horrific stats. The run game was an abomination. A mess.

Repairing the run has been the off-season focus. The two new coaching appointments, the first round pick, the addition of two run-blocking tight ends. Everything has been geared to fixing the run. If they achieve this — and they rapidly improved the run game between 2010 and 2011 — the Seahawks will reconnect their offense and defense and provide the kind of help Russell Wilson deserves.

They might not have the LOB but Wilson + a running game = a very competitive opponent.

2. The need to be quicker on defense

The Seahawks have moved on from a number of key veterans. It’s true there’s no longer an ‘all-star’ look to the unit. Yet it was clear one ingredient from ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ was missing last season.

The speed.

Seattle suddenly looked like an ageing team. This was punctuated when the Rams looked significantly quicker in the Century Link beat down. The various changes to the defense aren’t just about moving on disillusioned characters. It was surely about regaining some of the quickness that made Seattle so dangerous from 2011 onwards.

Speed doesn’t just come in the form of numerous 4.3 runners either. Youth, fresh legs, new energy. That willingness to fly around and chase that second contract rather than expecting the third. Seattle’s defense won’t be as good as the 2013 unit in 2018. Nowhere near. Can they be competitive? Not a liability? Sure. Carroll hasn’t put a bad defense on the field in eight seasons so far.

The two big question marks will be pass rush and the changes to the secondary. Firstly, Seattle coped fairly well when they had to rely on Chris Clemons for a pass rush between 2010-12. Secondly, Carroll and John Schneider were the guys that drafted and developed Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas, Maxwell, Griffin, Thurmond etc.

They can develop DB’s, even ones you haven’t heard of.

3. Improved special teams

Blair Walsh missing field goals, bad punts and coverage, lost field position, ineffective returns. 2017 was a bad year for special teams in Seattle.

They drafted a new punter and signed two new kickers. It doesn’t guarantee improved results but certainly they’ve been pro-active in trying to address this issue. If they can deliver even an average performance on special teams in 2018, that would be a major boon.

The offensive line should also benefit from an extra year of experience and the coaching change to Mike Solari. Duane Brown, brought in mid-way through the 2017 season, has now had a proper off-season in Seattle. There’s potential for growth here even if it falls into the ‘have to see it to believe it’ category for now. Change might be harder to achieve after years of toil but it’s neither impossible or improbable.

All of these things are basic aspects for a functioning football team. It highlights how rudderless the 2017 Seahawks were at times. Yet they still won nine games — because of Wilson, the coach and the likes of Wagner and Baldwin.

It’s easy to forget the Seahawks — minus Avril, Sherman, Chancellor and others — handily beat the eventual Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia. On a day when the running game and special teams clicked, they were extremely competitive.

The Seahawks aren’t what they once were. Nobody would dispute that. Talk of 4-12 seasons and a chronic demise seem overstated though.

They won nine games a year ago and they can do the same this year. If not more. A prediction of 8-10 wins seems fair considering a somewhat difficult schedule. They’re capable of more but it might be a year too early for a refreshed group.

Expect a competitive Seahawks team trying to work it’s way back into contention. Not a hopeless bunch of has-been’s drifting towards a top-five pick.

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The issue with Earl Thomas’ trade demands

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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Kam Chancellor is retiring

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.

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