Chargers Free Agency

What would it take for Chargers to acquire FS Earl Thomas?

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 31: Tight end Jermaine Gresham
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 31: Tight end Jermaine Gresham
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With a ton of trades happening around the NFL, should the Los Angeles Chargers join in and make a deal for Seahawks FS Earl Thomas?

Bolt Beat’s Scott Iger already discussed the idea of trading for Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas a few weeks ago.

But a lot has changed since then. The “NFL trade tsunami” is coming to fruition. And looking at the recent deals, it makes you wonder: Could the Chargers acquire Thomas without giving up a king’s ransom?

The Kansas City Chiefs traded CB Marcus Peters and a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick and 2019 second-round pick. The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro is 25 years old and has the most interceptions (19) in the league since 2015. He’s played in all but three games since entering the league. Peters is in the final year of his rookie deal and will make $1.7 million in base salary (fifth-year option has yet to be picked up).

The Rams also acquired CB Aqib Talib from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2018 fifth-round pick. Despite being 32 years old, Talib followed up a dominant year in 2016 with another solid performance in 2017. He’s been durable, too, having played at least 15 games in three of his four seasons with Denver. He signed a six-year, $57 million contract back in 2014 and will make $11 million in base salary in 2018.

The Miami Dolphins traded WR Jarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick and 2019 seventh-round pick. Landry is 25 years old, has yet to miss a game and led the league in receptions (112) this past season. Landry was given the franchise tag before being traded, so he’s scheduled to make $16 million in 2018 unless he and the Browns come to terms on a long-term extension. The Browns also traded a 2018 third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for 28-year-old QB Tyrod Taylor and shipped 2017 second-round QB DeShone Kizer to the Green Bay Packers for CB Damarious Randall, which also included swapping fourth- and fifth-round selections in the 2018 draft.

Peters and Talib are two of the top cornerbacks in the league. It’s rare to see a trade like that happen, especially with cornerback being one of the most valuable positions in the league. However, Peters, who was suspended one game last year due to on-field antics, was likely on HC Andy Reid’s last nerve, and the latter probably took whatever deal was on the table. As for Talib, he is also a bit of a head case (or chain grabber I should say), but Denver is in decline and he wanted to play for former Broncos DC Wade Phillips, who is now the DC for the Rams–and the Rams happen to have a decent amount of cap space. The NFL is a business, and connections do matter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins had no intention of giving Landry a long-term contract, and paying $16 million for a slot receiver is way too much for any team to take on..unless you’re the Browns and have the most cap space in the NFL.

Despite all the great statistics that came with each player listed above, there was a case made for why they were traded, as well as why the sellers didn’t get much in return.

So what about Thomas? At first, it seemed unlikely. But let’s take a look at why it seems more and more reasonable:

1) The Seahawks are making changes. Longtime CB Richard Sherman and DE Michael Bennett are no longer on the team. SS Kam Chancellor’s career is in question after suffering a serious neck injury last year. Thomas could look to move on.

2) Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, is an elite free safety, but he comes with injury concerns as of late. After six straight seasons of playing in all 16 games, he missed seven total games over the last two years due to a broken leg and a pulled hamstring. While he should have a ton of football left in him, he does turn 29 years old in May. That, plus a deep safety class, could make him expendable and affordable.

3) The safety position is not as valuable as the cornerback position, and the Rams didn’t have to pay a pretty penny to get Peters and Talib. Can’t argue that fact people.

4) Chargers DC Gus Bradley was Thomas’ DC when he was a member of the Seahawks from 2009-12 (Thomas was a rookie in 2010). Thomas would feel right at home in Bradley’s scheme.

5) Thomas is scheduled to make $8.5 million in base salary in the final year of his deal and will certainly want a raise. Do the Seahawks want to pay him? Can they? DT Sheldon Richardson could cost them a decent amount to bring back, and they arguably have more holes to fill than the Chargers do. If you’re the Seahawks, getting something in return is better than potentially getting nothing once he becomes a FA.

At the moment, the Chargers have a need at free safety. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, is an unrestricted free agent. After settling for a one-year deal, Boston could command more money than the Chargers are willing to pay him. He may be only 25 years old, but he’s nowhere near the type of player Thomas is. Thomas’ talent and leadership is unmatched. From a numbers standpoint, Boston finished with 79 combined tackles, five interceptions and eight pass deflections last year, which were career highs in all three categories; Thomas had 88 combined tackles, two picks, seven pass deflections and one defensive touchdown. However, Thomas graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-best safety, whereas Boston was PFF’s 30th-best safety.

After all of this, what would the Chargers have to give up to get Thomas?

I think that if the Chargers offered CB Jason Verrett and a 2018 fourth- or fifth-round pick, the Seahawks would bite. Seattle needs corners after releasing Sherman and Jeremy Lane. Verrett is coming off another injury, but he’s one of the better cornerbacks out there and is only 26 years old (age will sell). The Chargers picked up Verrett’s 2018 option, so he’s also scheduled to make $8.5 million in base salary. The Chargers already have a trio of top-15 corners in Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams and Desmond King. As much as I like Verrett, the Chargers can feel safe moving on from the former TCU product and, more importantly, fill the hole at safety.

The Chargers are contenders. They have a ton of weapons on offense, dominant pass rushers on defense and a secondary that is deep and on the rise. Addressing both lines and the linebacker position is still key, but the addition of Thomas would put the Bolts over the top.

And after seeing what just occured with those other trades, anything can happen.

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