The San Francisco 49ers are going to have plenty of money to spend in 2019, and soon-to-be free-agent safety Earl Thomas could easily be a prime target. Especially according to cornerback Richard Sherman.
It’s not hard to find talk about the San Francisco 49ers possibly luring in current Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas when NFL free agency rolls around in 2019. Heck, Thomas made Niner Noise’s Christmas wish list for the team just a few days ago.
Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, will be a free agent this offseason. After failing to negotiate a long-term extension with the Seahawks this year, a broken leg back in Week 4 was enough to convince Thomas to make some not-safe-for-work gestures towards the Seattle sideline.
In all reality, any chances Thomas returns to the Seahawks in 2019 went out the window with that moment.
And on the surface, he already has one former teammate making pitches for Thomas to come to San Francisco, cornerback Richard Sherman.
“I think this is a pretty attractive destination as is, but money is the best recruiter,” Sherman told reporters on Thursday (h/t 49ers Webzone). I’ll do my two cents.”
Sherman and Thomas played together from 2011 through 2017, comprising two essential parts of the once-vaunted “Legion of Boom.”
“Would I love to play with Earl Thomas III? Sure,” Sherman continued. “I would love to. I’d love to have him back in the locker room. But I’m sure he’ll have a plethora of opportunities, but I’m sure we’re going to throw our hat in the ring.”
Determining those opportunities isn’t hard to do. As Sherman noted, Thomas would be an upgrade over many a free safety despite the fact he’ll turn 30 years old this offseason. But what makes San Francisco a favorable destination is the fact coordinator Robert Saleh’s single-high, Cover 3 defense is a clone of what Thomas thrived in with the Seahawks.
It would be a seamless transition, just like it was for Sherman at the beginning of 2018.
But, of course, money talks. So do previous reports Thomas and the Dallas Cowboys were linked to a possible deal earlier this year.
Here’s the thing, though. The Cowboys don’t exactly have the financial leeway to make what would be a lucrative NFL free agency offer to Thomas, who’ll likely command one of the top contracts at his position next year.
Peter Dawson of the Star-Telegram explained last October:
"The Cowboys might only need to offer him a deal that looks similar to the one he had in Seattle.Something in the neighborhood of four years and a cap hit of $8-9 million per season.However, the Cowboys still have to pay future free agents such as quarterback Dak Prescott and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.And their cap situation now and moving forward is not ideal."
The Cowboys have just under $54.9 million projected in available cap space next season, per Over the Cap, with an additional $11.4 million in possible 2018 rollover. That doesn’t include, however, for franchise-tagged EDGE Demarcus Lawrence nor a likely extension for quarterback Dak Prescott.
The 49ers, meanwhile, could have a combined $105 million to spend, including rollover. One team can essentially spend what it wants, while the other can’t. It’s that simple.
Plus, the Niners have one factor that helped lure Sherman in — the ability to “stick it” to the Seahawks twice a year.
Maybe Thomas finds that attractive, too.