The transformation of the Seattle Seahawks' roster over the past two weeks has already seen the team part with two of its biggest stars. Defensive end Michael Bennett was traded two days before cornerback Richard Sherman was released. Those moves came before three more starters -- tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Paul Richardson -- departed in free agency.
With the first wave of free agency over, the most pressing question facing the Seahawks is the uncertain future of another defensive mainstay, Earl Thomas. The All-Pro free safety has been the subject of trade speculation, with CBSSports.com reporting recently that the Seahawks have been in discussions with several teams about a potential deal.
Thomas acknowledged that uncertainty in a recent interview with "Off the Ball," a sports radio show in Ireland, where he and some other NFL players had traveled as part of a trip to promote football in the U.K.
“Hopefully I stay, but right now, nobody knows," Thomas said. "It’s a guessing game, so we’ll see.”
Thomas is entering the final year of a four-year, $40 million extension from 2014. In the four years since he signed the deal, Thomas has gone from the NFL's highest-paid safety in terms of annual average to sixth, with teammate Kam Chancellor ($12 million) among those who have passed him up. Kansas City's Eric Berry tops the list at $13 million after signing a six-year, $78 million extension last offseason. That's a deal Thomas pointed to as part of his motivation for continuing his career after briefly mentioning the possibility of retirement after he broke his leg in late December 2016.
At the Pro Bowl in January, Thomas said he'd like to finish his career with the Seahawks but indicated that he could hold out without a new deal.
“In my case, whether I’m in Seattle or anywhere else, I’m going to be rich and happy regardless," Thomas said in the "Off the Ball" interview. "So it’s a cut-throat league, but if you’re at the top of your game and you don’t give them any reasons to devalue, you’re good. That’s just how I look at it.”
General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll had an opportunity to put the Thomas questions to rest at the scouting combine but neither offered anything resembling assurance that he remains in the team's long-term plans. In response to a question about Bennett's future after ESPN reported that the Seahawks were shopping him, Schneider said the team was "open to anything."
That was made clear over the next week as Seattle traded Bennett and released Sherman in a matter of days. Since then, the Seahawks have re-signed Bradley McDougald for $13.5 million over three years and then added another safety, former Rams starter Maurice Alexander, on a low-cost, one-year deal.
Those signings could have been tied more to Chancellor's situation, as he awaits word on whether he'll be able to play again after suffering a career-threatening neck injury last season. Both McDougald and Alexander have played both safety spots. But those moves coinciding with the report of trade talks involving Thomas have done nothing to quell the uncertainty over his future in Seattle.
As for Sherman, Thomas said it will "definitely" be weird seeing his longtime teammate playing for the rival San Francisco 49ers. But he stressed that they'll remain close and said he and his family are attending Sherman's wedding later this month in the Dominican Republic.
“To see Sherm on the other side, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be football at the end of the day and we’re still going to be great friends," Thomas said. "... So the relationship is always going to be there. You can’t throw away all of the great times that we had.”
Sherman's departure and Chancellor's iffy status mean Thomas is potentially the only remaining linchpin of the Legion of Boom secondary that was a major key to Seattle's historic run of defensive success.
“We marked our spot in history," said Thomas, who was being interviewed alongside longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. His father, Buddy Ryan, ran the famed 1985 Chicago Bears defense. "He was talking about the Bears defense; they’re always going to be talking about Seattle’s defense because we made our mark, we did that.”
Is it over?
"Oh, no," Thomas said. "It's definitely not over."
He was asked if the next incarnation needs to be referred to as the LOB Part II.
“You can’t say LOB I or II," Thomas said. "The LOB is what it is, and when we re-establish ourselves with the new group, cool.”
He added: “It’s definitely the same spirit, especially if I’m back there.”
On Saturday, Thomas took to Twitter to express his desire to stay in Seattle.