Who to re-sign? Richardson Or Thomas?
Updated: Oct 29, 2018
According to OverTheCap.com, the Seahawks salary cap is at $14,756,861 going into the 2018 season. Richardson expects to return as a Seahawk in 2018. Thomas voiced his desire to also remain in Seattle but only at the right price. So who should the Seahawks extend? Richardson? Thomas? Both? According to Spotrac.com, Sheldon Richardson's Market Value is listed at $11.9M/year. The Market Value is produced by comparing the players age, contract status and on-field production to other athletes in the positions. Richardson was compared to the likes of Brandon Williams, Linval Joseph, Michael Brokers, and Malik Jackson.
Richardson's Base Calculated Value is listed at 4-year/$49,711,624M - $12.4M/year average.
For Thomas, his value is expected to be in the $14-15M/year range. In February 2017, Eric Berry was re-signed to a 6-year/$78M extension - $13M/year avg. So how can the Seahawks afford to re-sign both players?
By cutting Cliff Avril and Jeremy Lane, the Seahawks would save $14,325,000 raising the cap to $26,631,861.
Let's restructure Earl Thomas's contract. If the Seahawks were to re-sign Earl Thomas to a 4-year/$56M contract ($14M/year average), how could that look?
Earl's current contract: 4-year,$40M with a signing bonus of $9.75M (24%), $25.75M (64%) guaranteed. Eric Berry's contract: 6-year, $78M with a signing bonus of $20M (25%), $40M guaranteed (51%). Take the average of the guaranteed percentages and signing bonus, Earl's contract could consist of: 57.5% guaranteed with 24% signing bonus. So, from a 4-year/$56M extension, Earl would get a $13.44M signing bonus, $32M guaranteed. Using the calculator on OverTheCap.com, Earl Thomas's contract could look like the following below.
What does this do to the 2018 cap? By restructuring Earl's 2018 contract, the Seahawks could give Earl more bonus money this year and the cap number would only drop to $23,781,861.
Now, let's attempt to sign Richardson. As detailed earlier, Spotrac.com has Richardson's calculated market value at a contract of 5-year/$59.99M ($11.99M/year avg.). In 2017, Timmy Jernigan signed a 4-year extension with Eagles for $48M, with a $10M (21%) signing bonus and $24M (50%) guaranteed.
By using Jernigan's guaranteed and signing percentages as a baseline against Richardson's calculated value, Richardson's contract breakdown could look like this: 5-year/$60M, $12.6M signing bonus, $30M guaranteed.
This would lower the 2018 cap from $23,781,861 to $16,781,861.
Richardson is a playmaker. He's disruptive, explosive, and a difference maker. He caused the fumble against Wentz at the goalline. Made an important stop against Texans on a 3rd down that could have sealed the game for the Texans. Here's a breakdown of just SOME of his defensive plays.
There are some that are not too enthused about his statistics, however, one thing to keep in mind is Richardson was only in on 654 snaps (59.56% of the defensive snaps), including missing the Redskins game due to injury. Richardson's Pro Bowl year in 2014, he accounted for 79.55% of defensive snaps at 809.
Richardson is the more expensive option. The $7M 2018 cap number could go to re-signing Dion Jordan, Bradley McDougald, or other free agents on the market.
$16M in cap space is not a lot of money to work with. Cutting Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett would only result in an additional cap savings of $4M, bringing the cap up to $20M. Not a whole lot of cap savings by removing these guys. So if, there is any chance or desire for Chancellor and Bennett to continue playing, then it makes sense to keep them on the team. What should the Seahawks do? While it may not be the most cost-effective option, I say, you extend both, Richardson and Thomas.
If Cliff Avril is gone and with Michael Bennett hinting that his time may be done as well, who are you left with on the defensive line? You have Clark, Jones and Reed. Good players but not difference makers.
If Bennett still wants to play, I say he needs to be rotated a lot more in 2018. In 2017, Bennett accounted for 84.79% of the defensive snap count, all on a bad foot. This is where you could extend Dion Jordan and keep him in the rotation with Bennett. Some may not like the price tag that Richardson comes with, however, if you look at what Aaron Donald will demand in 2019 (Donald's Value is upward of $20M+/year average), Richardson's contract isn't bad in comparison. Still on the pricey side, but, not bad.
Fans can be very emotional when it comes to their players expressing their interest in being with another team, such as Earl did this year in Dallas. Many fans and some local radio talk shows are willing to trade Earl. But again, if you let go of Earl Thomas, a 28-year old going on 29 year-old safety who is still in his prime, who do you have to replace him? There is no replacing Earl Thomas. Not right now anyway. Surprise! If you want to keep playmakers, it will come at a cost. That's just how it goes. A great defense should have core pieces to build around.
Going forward, those pieces on the defense should be Richardson and Clark on the line, Wagner in the middle, and Earl in the backfield, with free agents and young talent to fill the other roles.
Did we forget what happened to the defense when Earl was lost in 2016?
As a side note, if Richard Sherman is fully healthy coming off injury, I say the Seahawks should allow him to finish his 2018 contract. From his post-game interview against the Cardinals where he tore his achilles, it seemed that Sherman was playing injured for a while and his injury was just a matter of time. Now that he has both injuries surgically repaired and hopefully healthy, if Sherman feels ready to go, then keep Sherman put and allow him to play out his final year. Other options?
The Seahawks could allow Richardson to enter free agency and then pick up another tackle such as Dontari Poe, Clinton McDonald, Star Lotuleilei, or David Irving. Irving was out the later part of the 2017 to a concussion injury. All would be serviceable and financially cheaper than Richardson. I would rather have some consistency and something more long-term as far as defensive line personnel. But, if it's not financially sensible to keep Richardson and sign one of the aforementioned free agents, then so be it.
If the Seahawks decide to trade Earl Thomas, then I would expect the world for him. Nothing less than several round picks. A 1st rounder plus and a 3rd rounder. Or two 2nd round picks plus a late pick next year.
There are some very good offensive lineman that would possibly be available at the top of the 2nd round such as Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, and Austin Corbett, that would help this offensive line tremendously. As well as some excellent running backs in Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. The 2nd and 3rd round will have some superstars this year, so obtaining as many picks possible in those rounds will be important.