RENTON, Wash. -- Earl Thomas is the latest member of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks to be locked up for the future.
The best free safety in the NFL is getting rewarded quite well.
Thomas and the Seahawks reached agreement Monday on a $40 million, four-year contract extension with just over $27.7 million guaranteed, according to two people with knowledge of the agreement. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because there had been no announcement from the team.
The agreement was first reported by NFL.com.
Thomas, a two-time first-team All-Pro, could have gone into the 2014 season with free agency on the horizon. Instead, Seattle made sure to keep the most important cog of its defence through the 2018 season.
It's the latest move in a strong off-season for the defending champions. While there were losses in free agency and difficult roster decisions with expensive veterans released, Seattle re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett before free agency began, then locked up coach Pete Carroll with an extension through 2016.
The debate was whether Seattle could get a long-term deal done with either Thomas or cornerback Richard Sherman before either became a free agent after the 2014 season.
Thomas' deal is finished and the Seahawks can turn their attention toward trying to get a deal done with Sherman and solidifying three-fourths of the top secondary in the NFL for years to come.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor is already signed through the 2017 season.
Thomas was Seattle's second first-round pick in the 2010 draft, the first with Carroll and general manager John Schneider leading the franchise.
It's turned out to be one of the most important selections the team has made since starting a makeover with the duo in charge of moulding the Seahawks into a championship club.
"Earl is as serious a competitor as you could ever hope to be around. He is in it, and he's on it and dialed in," Carroll said before the Super Bowl.
Thomas was Seattle's second-leading tackler last season and added five interceptions, but it's what his presence allows the Seahawks to do defensively that underscores his value. His speed in coverage and recognition in the secondary are among the best in the game. Much of what Seattle wants to do defensively is predicated on having Thomas on the roster.
At one point early in his career, Carroll had to threaten Thomas with benching because he was trying to do too much. Thomas was getting out of position and being undisciplined in his assignments.
As he matured, those mistakes became harder to find. Thomas' recognition of what opponents were trying to run became so good that he could play alone in the back of Seattle's defence.
Often this past season, the Seahawks were able to move Chancellor closer to the line of scrimmage and ask Thomas to patrol the back end by himself. He did that job at an elite level and earned his second straight All-Pro selection.
"In this defence, I think me and Kam do a lot. Sometimes dirty work, sometimes a lot of game-changing plays," Thomas said during Super Bowl week. "Everybody on the defence understands that. That's why this defence is so compatible with each other. It's selfless guys.
"We're going to put everything on the line for each other. Love is the highest frequency we have and we understand that, and that's what it's all about. When you're filled up with gratitude, it's a genuine appreciation for everybody around you. That's the way I love it."
Thomas has 15 career interceptions in the regular season and two more in the playoffs. Thomas will still only be 29 years old when his new deal expires after the 2018 season.