The Seattle Seahawks already have parted with two of the best players in franchise history, releasing cornerback Richard Sherman and trading defensive lineman Michael Bennett. The future of a third player remains in the air, with the team acknowledging that it's at least open to trading free safety Earl Thomas.
But general manager John Schneider isn't referring to the recent transformation of the Seahawks' roster as a rebuild -- it's more like a reset. That was the term he used while speaking with reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings in what marked his first public comments since the recent wave of big-name departures from Seattle.
It started with Sherman's release and Bennett's trade to the Philadelphia Eagles a week before free agency. It continued with key players such as tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Paul Richardson all signing elsewhere. Those subtractions have amounted to the most significant upheaval of the Seahawks' group of core players since Schneider and coach Pete Carroll arrived in 2010 and began remaking the roster they inherited.
"It's just always very, very hard to make those decisions to move on from people, but that's what we have to do in order to be a consistent championship-caliber football team," Schneider said, according to The Seattle Times. "We don't want to be having these major rebuilding years. We want to be able to have little resets, if you will."
When asked if the Seahawks are rebuilding, Schneider said, "No, no," then mentioned four of the Pro Bowl players who remain on Seattle's roster: middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, left tackle Duane Brown, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and quarterback Russell Wilson.
"There's a pretty cool group of guys, and I'm leaving guys out, I know," Schneider said. "It's not like 2010, when we felt like we had to make these sweeping changes. We've been here since 2010, and it feels like we've just constantly been doing this every single year. It's not like we have this, 'OK, season's over, now we're going to do A, B and C.' We're working all the way through the year."
Schneider referred to Sherman as a "salary-cap casualty" and said the timing of his release was designed to give him the best shot to catch on with a new team, a courtesy he felt Sherman was owed. Sherman, who turns 30 this week, was set to make $11 million in the final year of his contract and is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2017 season prematurely. Seattle released him a week before the start of free agency, and he signed with the rival San Francisco 49ers shortly after.
"We had so much respect for Richard, and he was representing himself, so he wanted to get out there into free agency as quickly as he could, and we weren't going to just hold on to him until we signed other players then let him go," Schneider said. "We have so much respect for him that we were going to let him out into free agency as quickly as we could and not just hang on to him until we signed other players, then he had to do his deal. He has done so much for the organization that it wasn't fair for us to just sit and wait forever to see who we were going to sign or not sign. So that's why we went ahead and did it, as hard as it was."
As for Thomas, who has been the subject of trade speculation, Schneider reiterated what he said at the scouting combine earlier this month about the Seahawks being "open to anything." He said as much to The Seattle Times and also in an interview with the NFL Network.
"I said this at the combine -- we listen to everything," Schneider told the NFL Network. "If we're not listening to everything, we're not doing our job. Earl's a great player."
Schneider said that the Seahawks aren't currently in discussions with Thomas' representatives about a new contract. Thomas, who has made six Pro Bowls and has been a first-team All-Pro three times in his eight seasons, has a year remaining on a four-year, $40 million deal and has mentioned the possibility of a holdout in the absence of an extension.
"No, not at this point, no," Schneider said of contract talks. "There are a number of guys that we have coming up that have one year left. Earl, this would be his third contract and he is a great, great player."