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Former Seahawks safety Earl Thomas to sign with Baltimore Ravens

UPDATED: Wed., March 13, 2019, 4:13 p.m.

Seattle free safety Earl Thomas reacts after a Seahawks’ win over the Dallas Cowboys in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Seattle. Thomas is reportedly signing with Baltimore. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Seattle free safety Earl Thomas reacts after a Seahawks’ win over the Dallas Cowboys in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Seattle. Thomas is reportedly signing with Baltimore. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Well, this isn’t where anyone seemed to expect Earl Thomas to end up.

But the longtime fixture of Seattle’s secondary is headed to Baltimore as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Thomas will sign with the Baltimore Ravens. NFL Network also reported the deal and that Thomas will sign a four-year contract with the Ravens worth $55 million and $32 million guaranteed.

That gives Thomas an average per year salary of $13.75 million, which would put Thomas just behind the $14 million per year of Landon Collins (who signed this week with Washington) and Tyrann Mathieu (who signed with Kansas City). Thomas made $10 million a year on his previous contract with Seattle, a four-year, $40 million deal he signed in the spring of 2014.

The Ravens became interested in Thomas after releasing Eric Weddle last week. Weddle eventually signed with the Rams, a team that had been thought interested in Thomas.

That Thomas turns 30 on May 7 and suffered season-ending broken legs two of the last three seasons had some observers wondering if he would truly get the big payday he so obviously desired, especially as the free agent legal tampering period began Monday and players such as Mathieu and Collins signed huge contracts elsewhere. But ultimately Thomas gets the kind of contract that the Seahawks never wanted to offer.

Seattle will host the Ravens at CenturyLink Field next season, so Thomas will make a quick return to Seattle.

Shortly after the news broke, Thomas tweeted simply “Yeaaaaaaaa !!” with emojis of a money bag and praying hands. He followed it up with a tweet saying, “Thank you Seattle for the love and memories that my family and I will never forget.”

Thomas had made it clear for more than a year that he wanted a significant contract extension to stay with Seattle or he wanted to move on. That desire led to Thomas holding out all of training camp last year, only to return before the start of the regular season so he would not miss any game checks of his $8.5 million base salary in 2018. He played just four games in 2018 before suffering a broken leg in a game against Arizona, his second broken leg in three seasons.

Thomas had also made it clear he would he happy to head to his home state of Texas and play for Dallas, infamously approaching Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and telling him to “come get me” following a game there on Christmas Eve in 2017.

But Dallas reportedly did not want to pay Thomas more than about $11 million a year. It’s also thought Thomas and the Seahawks never had significant talks on an extension.

Rumors circulated Tuesday night that Thomas was talking with the Cleveland Browns. But those reports were quashed early Wednesday morning and news then broke of his signing with the Ravens.

Thomas’ departure, along with injured strong safety Kam Chancellor’s expected release before the 2019 season of means the Seahawks could enter the season with just one or two members of the defense that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season – Bobby Wagner, who is under contract through 2019, and K.J. Wright, who is an unrestricted free agent and has yet to sign with anyone.

Thomas leaves Seattle going down as one of the three best safeties in team history along with Hall of Famer Kenny Easley and Chancellor, with whom he helped form the famed Legion of Boom defense from 2010 until Chancellor’s career-ending injury against Arizona on Nov. 9, 2017.

Thomas made six Pro Bowls while with the Seahawks, who drafted him with the No. 14 overall pick out of Texas in 2010, the second pick of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. Thomas was a first team All-Pro pick three times.

Thomas started 107 straight games for Seattle from 2010 until suffering a hamstring injury in 2016, the second-longest streak for a position player in team history behind guard Chris Gray’s 121 (from 1999-2006) and longest of any defensive player.

Without Thomas last season, the Seahawks started Tedric Thompson at free safety and Bradley McDougald at strong safety, and then going with McDougald at free safety and Delano Hill at strong safety for two games when Thompson was injured.

Barring a major move, that could be how Seattle enters the 2019 season with Thomas finally, officially, out the door.

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