The offseason is so close to being over, but we still have a few hurdles to go over.
Today, it’s unreasonable trade speculation that we must conquer. The player with the most trade buzz to his name nowadays is Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who recently went to Instagram to state his desire for his current team to either extend his contract, or trade him away.
NFL Network and NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks recently chimed in on the Thomas situation, and deduced that it may be in Seattle’s best interest to deal Thomas for a high-price asset because of any distraction that he may have caused for the team. He also listed five teams that could be interested in trading for Thomas, and had the Bengals as one of them.
The Bengals don’t have an obvious need at safety, but the team could use another veteran leader to help the defense play at a championship level. Thomas’ ball-hawking skills and toughness would add some sizzle to the defense, while his championship pedigree would come in handy in any playoff action. Given Marvin Lewis’ winless postseason record, the addition of a strong leader like Thomas could help him earn a “W” in January.
Brooks’ reasoning for the Bengals adding Thomas comes off logical, and only because he doesn’t mention the cost and future implications pertaining to the Bengals.
For starters, Cincinnati would have to offer a first-round draft pick or multiple Day 2 picks to even interest Seattle. Thomas is an All-Pro player and will not be easy nor cheap to acquire.
This wouldn’t be the first move the Bengals made this year that involved significant draft capital, as they traded for former Buffalo Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn and gave up their first-round pick from this year for him. The key stipulation in that trade was them also receiving Buffalo’s first-round pick in the process and essentially traded down nine spots.
The Bengals have been known to trade picks for players straight up and vice-versa, but when they give up picks, they aren’t in the top 100. Expecting them to do so all of a sudden is unrealistic, and even when they’re supposedly in “win-now” mode, this kind of move is still uncharacteristic of the team.
But let’s ignore all of the logic for the sake of addressing the second issue. If the Bengals trade for Thomas, he’s starting and never coming off the field due to his theoretical being the unquestionable best member of the secondary from the moment he joins the defense.
The Bengals are paying two safeties starting money in George Iloka and Shawn Williams, and will be paying both of them to start until 2020. Each deal is structured similarly, and Cincinnati is not a team that cuts ties to vets with dead money still attached to their names.
There’s also the Jessie Bates aspect in all of this. Bates is the Bengals’ second-round pick this year and was brought in because his strengths as a safety—coincidentally, the skill set aligns with Thomas’s. Obviously, Bates is not at Thomas’ level and probably never will be, but the investment in Bates can’t be ignored.
Bates is expected to play significant snaps in his first season, and even though the talent and veteran presence Thomas possesses is immense, the Bengals will stay committed to this route they took.
On top of everything, there’s the fact that Thomas is looking to get paid beyond 2018. After giving up presumable multiple early round draft picks, Thomas would have to be expected to stick around in Cincinnati. Perhaps other more desperate defenses would take him on as a one-year rental for that price, but the Bengals would not.
And with two aforementioned starting contracts on the books for two more years after this season, the Bengals won’t give another safety a deal bigger than either of those.
Being the fun police is never an admirable position, though. The Bengals would undoubtedly become a better team with the best deep safety in the NFL on the roster, and I’d be all for it if it were plausible. But with so many factors that aren’t indicative of how this team operates, it is nowhere near plausible.