What would it take for the Seahawks to send Earl Thomas to Dallas?

Seahawks, Cowboys in staring match for Thomas (1:43)

Todd Archer and Brady Henderson analyze where Dallas and Seattle stand on a potential move that would make Earl Thomas a Cowboy. (1:43)

Earl Thomas is absent from Seattle Seahawks training camp and the Dallas Cowboys have shown interest in him for months.

But how likely is it that the two teams can work out a deal?

Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer answer some of the key questions surrounding a potential Thomas-to-Dallas deal.

What is each team's capacity to give Thomas a new deal?

Henderson: The Seahawks could if they really wanted to. In fact, they could give Thomas a deal that pays him in the neighborhood of the $13 million per year that Eric Berry makes as the NFL's highest-paid safety. They could probably find a way to structure a new deal in such a way that his scheduled 2018 cap charge of $10.4 million is lowered, thereby increasing Seattle's available 2018 cap space from around $11 million. Their cap situation is healthy enough over the next few seasons, too. But immediate cap space isn't the reason for their unwillingness to give Thomas an extension right now. It's about not wanting to sink significant money into a player who's nearing 30 and still has a year left on his current deal. The Seahawks have gotten burnt in recent years with similar extensions for Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor, and that appears to be a road they're wary of going down again.

Archer: The Cowboys can give Thomas the moon if they want. They don't have any salary-cap limitations. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they have $14.8 million in cap room. They currently have plenty of cap room open in 2019 as well. The future could get tricky but there are always ways to move things around to make deals work. They recently signed Zack Martin to an extension with $40 million guaranteed. They have DeMarcus Lawrence on the franchise tag and want to keep him long-term if he has another big season. They could also have deals for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott on the horizon. But the Cowboys can structure contracts in a way to make Thomas the highest-paid safety in the game if they want to. The question is: Would they want to? Do not dismiss the possibility of them thinking about a trade without a long-term commitment from Thomas, which would have to play a part in what they give Seattle as compensation.

Where does each team stand on a potential Thomas trade?

Henderson: A trade with Dallas is still very much in play, but the Seahawks aren't going to give Thomas away for nothing despite the perception that they have no other choice. He's under contract and, absent a trade, would eventually have to show up this season to avoid having his contract toll into 2019, which would put him another year away from free agency. Their mindset is that if he shows up, great, and if not, then his absence is something they've been planning for since the 2017 draft, when they selected three defensive backs in the first four rounds. Perhaps their play is waiting out the Cowboys and hoping Dallas' offer increases as the opener draws nearer.

Archer: Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said the teams have not talked since the draft. The Cowboys have to walk a fine line with what they say publicly about Thomas because of tampering rules, but Jones acknowledged the team always keeps its eye open on possible upgrades through free agency or trades. It's just what they do. As Brady said, the Seahawks aren't going to give Thomas away for nothing, but the Cowboys aren't going to overpay either. They held firm in talks at the combine and the draft as to what they would give up. It's basically a staring contest right now, right?

What might Seattle want and what might Dallas be willing to offer?

Henderson: They'd love to get a first-round pick back -- who wouldn't? -- and appear to be driving a hard bargain knowing that they don't have to do anything with Thomas, and perhaps also figuring that they should get a more valuable pick in any Thomas trade than they may have before the draft since that pick won't be of any help in 2018. A second-round pick may be more realistic, though, and that would recoup the one the Seahawks gave the Houston Texans last season as part of their trade for Duane Brown. Might Dallas be willing to throw in a defensive end like Kony Ealy to sweeten the pot? The Seahawks could use some pass-rush depth with Frank Clark coming off wrist surgery and oft-injured Dion Jordan, their other projected staring end, on the physically unable to perform list to begin training camp.

Archer: The Cowboys are one of the more creative teams in the league. They have done trades with certain stipulations that would increase what they give up or if they have to give up anything at all. For example, maybe they give up a third-round pick that turns into a second rounder if Thomas is named All-Pro or if they work out an extension for him before next year's draft. Player-wise, the Cowboys aren't going to give up a player they consider to be part of their core. Perhaps they could find pieces the Seahawks need (a down-the-line pass-rusher, maybe a backup corner) and add that to a deal that includes draft-pick compensation.

If not Thomas, then what's each team's plan at safety?

Henderson: Veteran Bradley McDougald will be starting at one safety spot, but that's about all we know at this point. He can play either position, as he did last season when he started two at free safety for Thomas and the final seven at strong safety for Kam Chancellor. His versatility and experience made it an easy choice for Seattle to give him a three-year extension this offseason while Thomas' and Chancellor's futures were up in the air. In Thomas' absence this offseason, second-year safeties Delano Hill (strong) and Tedric Thompson (free) have been taking turns working alongside McDougald on Seattle's No. 1 defense. Maurice Alexander, a former starter for the Los Angeles Rams, is also in the mix now that he's returned to practice following a shoulder injury. The book on Hill, a third-round pick, coming out of Michigan was that he's a strong tackler with excellent coverage skills. Thompson, a fourth-round pick who led FBS with 23 pass defenses in his final season at Colorado, is known for his instincts and ball skills. Neither played much beyond special teams as rookies, but one figures to factor heavily on defense if Thomas' holdout continues into the season.

Archer: The Cowboys say they are content with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier as their top three safeties. Woods was a sixth-round pick a year ago and they believe he has a bright future, but that can't stand in the way of adding a talent like Thomas, even as he closes in on 30. The Cowboys did not make a significant addition at safety in free agency or the draft, so perhaps their actions are backing up their words. Or maybe, just maybe, they believe they will end up with Thomas somehow or some way.


Henderson: The Seahawks and Cowboys will work out a trade, if not before the season opener than before the trade deadline in October.

Archer: Somehow, he'll be a Cowboy at some point.