All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas says he has no hard feelings toward the Seahawks despite his tumultuous final year in Seattle. He even thinks he'll sign a ceremonial contract to officially finish his career there when the time comes.
Thomas said as much during an interview with the Rich Eisen Show on Wednesday and also detailed how close he came to signing with Kansas City, saying he agreed to a deal with the Chiefs before a better offer came in from the Baltimore Ravens.
"I envision myself retiring as a Seahawk," Thomas said when asked about that possibility. "I would never burn a bridge there. I still love my teammates. I definitely see myself signing maybe a one-day deal, and hopefully they'll hang my jersey in the rafters."
Thomas joined the Ravens on a four-year, $55 million deal last month after spending his first eight seasons in Seattle. Things went south between Thomas and the Seahawks last year over his desire for a new contract and the organization's refusal to give him one. He held out all offseason while publicly calling for an extension or a trade, then showed up right before the season opener only to break his leg in Week 4. A week earlier, Thomas declined to practice in protest of his contract situation, and as he was being carted off the field with his leg in an air cast, he signaled his frustration with a middle finger toward the Seahawks' sideline. Thomas later told Peter King that the gesture was aimed at coach Pete Carroll.
"My feelings towards the organization at the time, I was very heated, very frustrated," he told Eisen. "But when you look at the blessing that the Ravens organization has believed in me and gave me this megadeal, I put all the stuff behind me and start to focus immediately on my new teammates and the Ravens organization. But obviously, everything that we've been through, everything I gave to that team, I felt kind of disrespected. But I know it's a business, I know they've got other guys they need to pay like [Russell Wilson], Frank Clark, Bobby [Wagner], and they're very deserving as well."
Wilson has given the Seahawks an April 15 deadline for a new contract that would approach or top Aaron Rodgers' deal as the richest in NFL history in terms of per-year average, assuming the two sides can reach an agreement. Wilson and Wagner, Seattle's All-Pro middle linebacker, are scheduled to be free agents after 2019. The Seahawks have placed the franchise tag on Clark, their best pass-rusher, meaning he's also unsigned beyond 2019.
"I realize I played with some great guys, and Bobby was definitely one of them," Thomas said. "I really didn't realize how great he was playing with him because we were scrambling trying to be the best we could be, and you don't sit back and understand like, this guy is the best middle linebacker in the league. Now that I've kind of stepped away from the team and had time to reflect on it, I'm very grateful just for the time that we had."
Thomas and the Ravens will play the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field next season.
Thomas previously told the Ravens' website that he thought he would sign with Kansas City, but he didn't reveal until his interview with Eisen that he had agreed to a deal with the Chiefs.
"Free agency was very weird," he said. "I didn't really know where I would end up. I was trying to see what my value was out there and I really thought I was going to go to Kansas City. I had committed there on a one-year deal worth like $12 million, and like the next morning I woke up, my agents called me and told me I had a better offer with the Ravens, so I definitely took that offer real quick."
Thomas' $13.75 million annual average ranks third among safeties behind Landon Collins and Tyrann Mathieu, who both signed deals worth $14 million. But Thomas' deal includes a whopping $32 million fully guaranteed at signing, more than Collins got from Washington or Mathieu from Kansas City.
His agents, Andrew Kessler and David Mulugheta, called the Chiefs to tell them Thomas would sign with Baltimore instead.
"That was the first thing that came to mind," he said. "I didn't want to disrespect that organization because obviously they believed in me for that one year and they committed to me, but my agents told me that they would take care of it and I just kind of let them guys work it out, and I got word back that Kansas City understood my situation and they were fine with it."
The Cleveland Browns were reported to be in the mix for Thomas, but a source told ESPN that they were never involved. As for the Dallas Cowboys, whom Thomas had famously told to "come get me" after a Christmas Eve game in 2017?
"They made their statements pretty clear in the media," Thomas said. "They wasn't ready to pay me like I thought I was worth. Obviously I would have loved to play for the organization. I grew up a big fan of that organization and all the great players that came from the organization, but it just didn't work out."