How the Kansas City Chiefs could potentially afford Earl Thomas
By Matt Conner
We’ve already said a million times (give or take a million) that this deal won’t work, so we’re now officially done with disclaimers.
If Brett Veach were to decide that adding Earl Thomas was the missing piece this Chiefs team needed and told his team to make it work, here’s how things might look.
Acquiring his rights
First, the team would have to acquire the rights to Thomas, given that he’s still under contract with Seattle. The Dallas Cowboys reportedly declined spending a third round pick on Thomas, which means that other teams aren’t likely to offer up the same. Does that mean that he could be had for a Day 3 pick (fourth or lower)? If so, then the actual draft compensation of this move might not be a major hurdle here. (That also assumes Seattle is willing to sell low.) The idea of buying low on a player would fit Veach’s pattern so far, but it takes two to tango here and again, that’s only part of the equation.
But let’s say that Thomas’s online campaign to wiggle free of Seattle’s rebuild works. Let’s set up a trade where the Chiefs could get him for a fourth round pick in 2019 and maybe an extra sixth in the 2020 draft just to sweeten the deal. That at least secures the rights.
The money involved
The Chiefs would have to have an extension in hand for Thomas before trading for him (at least something in the general ballpark of what Thomas is desiring) in order to make this work. Otherwise they have a disgruntled veteran safety on their hands who will likely hold out to get what he wants. He’s got plenty of money already in the bank, so he’ll use what leverage he can get.
That being the case, the Chiefs would need Thomas to negotiate his current deal down to a palatable amount for this year and beyond. This would require a few things:
- The presence of Thomas would allow the Chiefs to cut Dan Sorensen (especially with Dorian O’Daniel present as well). This would save $4.3 million on the cap this year alone, which could be exactly what the team needs to free up.
- Cutting tight end Demetrius Harris and running back Charcandrick West are ways in which the Chiefs could also create about $4 million in cap space.
- It’s important to note the cap will go up by several million each season from here on out. While the Chiefs are already counting on that at some positions, it will help here as well.
The comps here are a bit odd, even still, due to the oddly depressed market for safeties this year. Kam Chancellor was the same age that Thomas is now when he signed a three-year, $36 million deal. The Chiefs simply cannot afford to give up that much money while also paying Berry, especially when free agent options remain affordable and available on the open market. Then again, none are as decorated as Earl Thomas.
But consider that Morgan Burnett was also Thomas’s age when he signed a 3-year, $14.35 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers this spring. If Thomas would be amenable to that sort of deal, that’s a no-brainer for the Chiefs (considering that Ron Parker was getting quite a bit more than that in his last deal). I’d expect Thomas’s agent to understand the depressed market while still fighting for a nice major payday for his client.
What would make sense is a 3-year, $27 million commitment. That’s a gargantuan total in a year where Tyrann Mathieu has to take a 1-year deal at $7 million per. It’s also a higher average salary than Malcolm Jenkins could secure with the Eagles, so it caters to Thomas’s exemplary resume. At the same time, it also acknowledges the depressed safety market and gives the Chiefs a decent price tag on a premium player.
If you’re wincing at paying two top safeties so much money, you can at least take some comfort in knowing that the defending Super Bowl champs have no problem paying a lot of money to both starting safeties. The Eagles are No. 2 in positional spending here. Malcolm Jenkins has a cap hit of just over $10 million and free safety Rodney McLeod makes nearly $9 million. So if the Chiefs are looking for some solid company to keep, they have a team following that model that just won the whole shebang.
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What do you think? Sound off in the comments as to whether or not you think Earl Thomas would be the worth the effort.