Seattle has seen many players come to town and make a lasting impact on the team, the fans, and the community – while making a permanent home in the hearts of the Seahawks faithful. There are far too many fan favorites to make this list make sense, but the top players in franchise history are nearly incontrovertible. What order they rank, however, is very much up for discussion.
At last, we are nearing the conclusion of the rankings of the greatest players to wear a Seattle Seahawks uniform.
If you missed any of the previous chapters in the countdown, here are numbers 25-5:
4. Safety Earl Thomas III (2010-2018)
A guy that literally could do it all, he may as well have gone by the name Frazier Carter-Hayes because he hits like Joe Frazier, catches like Chris Carter, and runs like Bob Hayes. That’s the hat trick of unmatchable talents Thomas brought to Seattle, and he brought it from his first day as a starter in his rookie season.
A 5-time All-Pro and voted to six Pro Bowl rosters, Earl was the shining star of the Seattle defense, and he helped turn it from one of the league’s worst to one of the all-time greats in a matter of a couple of years. Earl was a fixture in the defense from his first game, and he found fame across the league by his second season as a high-flying, faster than lightning safety that could do it all and make it look easy. While shorter than the average receiver, Thomas made up for it with his wide range of athletic ability, elite smarts to spot the weakness in the offense, and freedom to roam the defensive backfield to find the quickest way to blow up the play as he saw fit.
Earl was absolutely one of the most talented players to wear a Seattle uniform, but he was also one of the hardest workers. When the best players are also the ones willing to put in the extra work, greatness can happen, and that’s exactly what we saw from Earl. With six consecutive seasons where he played in every game, Earl was the rare player who not only sacrificed his body for the team and the win but was also durable enough to absorb so much pain and still keep playing. With nearly unrivaled instincts, Thomas was routinely one of the top defenders in the league and a terrifying sight to see running full speed at an opposing player to either break up a pass or send someone to the turf in a hurry.
With 28 career interceptions, Thomas ranks 6th all-time in Seattle. Twenty-eight interceptions don’t rank highest among safeties, let alone all defensive backs in Seattle’s history, and it’s only in the top 250 in NFL history. But when you consider the number of playmakers Seattle had on defense during Earl’s time here, it’s pretty incredible he was able to fight for that many takeaways, especially with teams preferring to check down or run against them in their three years of terror as the top defense in the NFL from 2013-15.
At their peak, there really wasn’t a good place to go with the ball if you chose to pass on Seattle, but one thing was for sure – you weren’t throwing to a part of the field Earl was going to be near, and good luck figuring out his range during a given play. Thomas was so good at baiting QBs by sitting in a spot in the secondary, waiting for the ball to be in the air, then darting to that part of the field. His closing ability is second to none, and you can bet receivers hated going up for a pass when he was in the area – they knew they weren’t making a catch and probably were going to have sore ribs or shoulders in the morning. In today’s pass-first league, it’s so tough to inspire fear in the heart of an offensive player, but Earl definitely made opposing players wonder if they had what it takes to make a play against him.
There’s less than a zero percent chance that Thomas is not welcomed back by the team and the fans at some point, but right now, the relationship is tricky at best. The front office didn’t invest in Thomas during the end of his run in Seattle, opting to wait and most likely use the franchise tag on him in the offseason following the 2018 season, which would have made him among the top 5 highest-earning players at his position. Still, it would make him a year-to-year rental, and few players appreciate that. For a guy that gave so much of his body and heart to this team, you can’t help but feel like he was given the short straw. Earl played the first four games of the 2018 season on an expiring deal and was injured late in the game in week 4, having to be carted off the field. As he was being led away, Thomas famously made a gesture to the Seattle sideline, the same gesture that Maverick and Goose used in the movie Top Gun when they were in a 4G inverted dive with a MIG-28. While no one really knows what he meant by it other than Earl himself when left to their own devices, the public often assumes the worst, and based on how his time with the team ended; one can only assume things didn’t end well. Earl was on injured reserve for the final 12 games of his final season as a Seahawk, signing with the Ravens in the offseason, so at least he was still a ball-hawk for a team named after a bird of prey.
From 2013-15, Thomas was one of the key players in the top defense in the league and will absolutely be remembered as one of the greatest players at his position in NFL history. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes. Earl was one of the best to do the job, and he made it look easy, something even his worst critics have to admit. Earl will be compared to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, who were the top safeties in the league before he became the new sheriff in the NFL, rounding up receivers and keeping quarterbacks in check as the league looked to expand their scoring and become more exciting. The games were still exciting with Earl on the field, but not how the league intended.
The Texas Ranger of the Seattle secondary, Earl roamed his Sunday battlefields with intensity, speed, and determination. He didn’t take plays off or play lighter if the competition wasn’t up to his level; he made a point to play hard every game, all game, all day.
Thomas will be remembered as an all-time great in Seattle and one of the main reasons they have their championship trophy. He was a crucial part of one of the greatest and most intimidating defenses in the modern era and deserves to be remembered as one of the all-time greats by both the league and the team that he played for the majority of his career. If the Seattle Ring of Honor doesn’t bear his name in the future, you might as well take them all down because team history won’t be the same without him.
Check out Thomas’ career highlights here.
(Disclaimer – this video very accurately represents what it was like to play against Thomas. If you feel uneasy or want to turn the video off – that’s good. That means you get how players felt when Earl was lined up across from them.)