The number of injuries the Falcons have suffered the opening weeks is sickening. If being without four starters on defense against the Saints was not enough, the Falcons lost their veteran free safety for the season on the first play of overtime. Allen, who signed a three-year extension this offseason, joins Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Andy Levitre as the fourth starter to hit injured reserve.
That leaves Atlanta without both of their starting safeties. Damontae Kazee has proven a quality fill in for Neal, despite being ejected in his first start, but Atlanta is without an obvious option to replace Allen. With their depth depleted, they have to start looking at making a notable addition.
Who is more notable in the secondary than Earl Thomas?
Dan Quinn acknowledged after the game that him and general manager, Thomas Dimitrioff, were discussing possible options to take over for the injured Allen. And that was before they were certain of the severity of the injury. Now that the worst has been confirmed, Dimitrioff has to be evaluating all possibilities. That includes trading for Earl Thomas.
The six-time pro bowler is in the final year of his 4-year/$40 million deal with the Seahawks. He went through a tenuous holdout this offseason before finally reporting in early September, and if that was not enough, recently sat out practice to “make sure his body was 100%”.
That obviously agitated the Seahawks who are considering fining Thomas for the act. Even prior to that, there have been a multitude of trade reports surrounding Thomas. You have to think those are only intensifying, and they might have just found their perfect match.
Why they will trade for him
At this point, Atlanta is desperate defensively. It was one thing when Keanu Neal was out at the back end. Damontae Kazee would be a starter on many NFL teams and is playing next to the leader of the defense, Ricardo Allen. Now, the Falcons secondary is missing the star power of Neal and invaluable experience of Allen. That cannot be replaced in-house.
Bringing in Earl Thomas would immediately address both of those issues. Even though he missed the entire offseason, Thomas already has four passes defended and three interceptions on the year. And of course, has the experience of back-to-back Super Bowls as a part of the Legion of Boom coached by Dan Quinn
That familiarity is another thing that makes this deal possible. Earl Thomas can fit on any defense, but it is a smoother transition when you know the scheme like the back of your hand. Both Quinn and Marquand Manuel coached Thomas in Seattle and they know first-hand how Thomas can change a defense.
The cost will not be cheap. Seattle has reportedly denied a second-round pick in exchange for Thomas. However, can you really afford to waste years in the middle of your Super Bowl window? Atlanta came in with high aspirations. Aspirations, that are likely unattainable given the current state of the roster.
Have you seen the other teams around the NFL? There are not many world beaters out there. After three weeks, you could make a case that the Bucs are the best team in the NFC. The Falcons still have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and the addition of Earl Thomas can act as a giant band-aid over their injury woes, rejuvenating Super Bowl hopes for 2018.
Why they will not trade for him
Who would not want to add Earl Thomas to their team? Arguably the best safety in the league, his mere presence makes quarterbacks think twice about throwing the ball downfield. With the Falcons currently missing both of their starting safeties, he would undoubtedly mask many of the issues on the defense
But at what price?
The move to acquire Thomas would likely be a short-term one. Atlanta already has over $100 million invested at the corner position between Trufant and Alford. They just extended Ricardo Allen for three more years last offseason. And obviously, Keanu Neal is a centerpiece of their future. Thomas is going to want to be made the highest paid safety in the league at season’s end, and the Falcons simply cannot make that happen.
Essentially, Atlanta would be shipping over a second-round pick at minimum for less than a year rental of a pro-bowl safety. I love Thomas as much as the next guy, but there is no reason to invest that much in a player that likely won’t be in your future plans.
Also, why would the Falcons go all-in this season?
The addition of Thomas is fantastic in theory, but it’s only one player. The Falcons have already lost four to IR, making them long shots for a Super Bowl even with Thomas. It would be foolish to give away such a valuable pick in a desperate attempt to save a lost season.