SEATTLE — The Seahawks stayed true to their strategy and to their word.
As the offseason progressed, with the Seahawks staying away from headline-making free-agent signings, they promised that good news was on the horizon.
The payoff came Monday, both for anxious Seattle fans and for safety Earl Thomas, who agreed to a four-year extension that will make him the highest-paid safety in football.
Thomas agreed to a deal that will pay him $40 million over four seasons beginning in 2015, while he plays in 2014 on his current contract that will pay him $4.625 million.
The contract will be announced at a news conference Tuesday morning.
The $10 million average of Thomas’ extension tops the six-year, $54 million contract recently signed by New Orleans’ Jairus Byrd, as does the $27.725 million in guaranteed money (Byrd is reportedly getting $26.3 million).
Keeping Thomas had been regarded as one of Seattle’s most urgent priorities.
“We’re trying to take care of our own people and keep our core of young players together,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said recently.
Re-signing Thomas, who has made the Pro Bowl each of the past three years, also means Seattle has kept half of the famed Legion of Boom secondary intact. It was a year ago this month the Seahawks signed strong safety Kam Chancellor to a new five-year deal worth $35 million.
Next on the to-do list is re-signing cornerback Richard Sherman, who could get a contract that would top $12 million a year and also make him the highest-paid at his position in the NFL.
Sources Monday said the sides are negotiating and a contract could be done soon.
Sherman said last week he was not concerned about being the highest-paid NFL cornerback, an honor that currently belongs to Darrelle Revis of New England, making $12 million next season.
“I don’t care for that,” said Sherman, who is due to make $1.4 million in 2014 on the last year of the four-year rookie deal he signed in 2011. “The only list I care about being at the top of is interceptions.”
Still, Sherman said he will want what he feels he is worth.
“It’s about respect,” he said. “Whatever the team feels I deserve, the respect they feel — that (money) is the respect from the team. That’s how they show it, at least in this game. In other aspects of life it may be different. You may show respect in different ways. But in this game that’s how they show it.”
The Seahawks, though, appear well-positioned to be able to re-sign Sherman, even after giving Thomas his new deal.
Seattle has been in a cost-cutting mode throughout the free-agent season, preparing to re-sign Thomas and Sherman this year and quarterback Russell Wilson following the 2014 season, the first time he will be eligible for a new contract or extension.
Seattle cut high-priced veterans such as defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and stayed out of bidding wars for their own free agents such as Golden Tate, moves designed to create cap space to sign their highly valued players.
As of Monday, Seattle was listed as having $14.7 million in cap space for the 2014 season and it was expected that Thomas’ deal would be structured in a way to maintain the cap room to extend Sherman, and also deal with Wilson in a year.
“I think it’s a fair deal,” said former agent Joel Corry, who works for CBSSports.com. “It’s about what I thought he would get. He is clearly the best safety in football and I expected be would be the first safety to hit the $10 million a year mark.”
Corry added that Thomas “should send a thank you not to Jairus Byrd” for getting his new deal earlier this year that raised the bar for salaries given to safeties.
Fullback Michael Robinson, an unrestricted free agent, remains unsigned and told StateCollege.com over the weekend that his career might be over. “There really isn’t a market for 31-year fullbacks headed into their ninth year in the league,” Robinson said. “Economically speaking, I understand that. I’m going to give myself a little time after the draft to let teams see how their rosters shake out. After seeing what happens, I’m probably going to call it a career.” Seattle appears content to enter the season with the tandem of Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware at fullback.
• Seattle announced Monday the hiring of former Miami general manager Jeff Ireland as a consultant through the NFL draft, which is May 8-10.