Earl Thomas versus the Seahawks is more complicated than you think

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29: Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks . (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29: Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks . (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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Earl Thomas of the Seahawks
LENDALE, AZ – OCTOBER 23: Free safety Earl Thomas #29 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Here’s the problem: you can’t start at age 29 for Thomas

I don’t agree that the number of excellent seasons for safeties in their thirties is staggering at all. Based on Ufford’s cut-off of an average value of 10, half of his ten players had two or fewer excellent seasons. It makes perfect sense to compare Earl Thomas to this group, the best of the best. And yet, if Thomas performs like the half that fell off, the Seahawks would be grossly overpaying him. And of course Seattle has a painfully visible reminder of how quickly careers of the greatest players can end.

Let’s assume Thomas wants a four year extension. That would give him four years at age 30 and over. There’s one flaw in Mr. Ufford’s numbers, as it applies to Earl Thomas and the Seahawks. His chart lists the players who had seasons with an average value of 10 or more from age 29. Earl doesn’t need an extension to play at age 29. He’ll be 30 if he gets his contract redone. That changes things significantly. For instance, Lott had three seasons above 10 AV at age 30 and up, not four. Lynch had one. Reed had five, because he’s Ed freaking Reed, but it’s still five, not six.

The chart shows a total of 29 seasons of average values of ten or above among the ten players. But, that includes age 29, which is irrelevant in the case of an extension for Earl Thomas. From age 30 on, there were 22 seasons at that level, not 29. That’s an average of 2.2 seasons of excellent production, not 2.9. That’s a huge difference, the difference between getting three good years and two. I’d say an average value of 10 as a measure of excellence is pretty generous, too. For a point of reference, 10 is the value Earl Thomas earned for the 2015 and 2017 seasons. His peak seasons, 2012 and 2013, he earned scores of 14 each year.

I’m sure the Seahawks would take four more years – five counting the year for which he’s already under contract – of the 2017 version of Earl Thomas. Again, consider that not even Ronnie Lott could pull off the magic act of playing at the highest level. Lott had the best season of any safety at 30 or over, and it was his third best year. No player had their best season after the age of 29. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated in all contests. With a look back at Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks are betting on Father Time.