NFL trade deadline: The six contenders that need to deal for Joe Thomas
The Browns are going nowhere, and these teams could be too if they don't upgrade the blind side
After sitting through another Sunday of largely atrocious offensive line play and watching quarterbacks from contending teams run for their lives, I'm supposed to believe no one is going to pry Joe Thomas out of Cleveland?
All these teams with Super Bowl aspirations are getting whipped at the point of attack, yet none of these general managers will make an all-out effort to land a top-flight veteran left tackle toiling on a team with no hope and no immediate future? Oh, yeah, and no wins. The last time the Browns won? Go back to Oct. 12 of last season. Yeah, that's a 1-18 rut. Seriously?
Let me get this straight: The Browns have engaged in trade talks about Thomas and are obviously in let's-collect-every-draft-pick-we-possibly-can-and-make-sure-they-all-make-our-roster mode. Yet normally aggressive general managers like John Schneider (Seattle) or Steve Keim (Arizona), whose starting QBs were hounded and pounded again Sunday by defenses not exactly known for doing such, can't strike a deal?
At a time when offensive line play is as bad as many can recall, there is the possibility of landing Thomas, still only 31, and still very much a top-eight left tackle with a very team-friendly contract of $8 million a year for two more full seasons. Outside of New England, there is no super team in the league, with both conferences largely up for grabs. And you're going to tell me the phone lines in Cleveland won't be burning up ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. For real?
If not, it's an indictment on those GMs who fail to wade in. I would start by offering a second-round pick (and an additional high 2018 pick if my team wins the Lombardi Trophy with Thomas this season) to see what happens. It would be somewhat negligent not to thoroughly go down that road for several NFL teams.
Make no mistake, Thomas should have at least a half-dozen suitors, and Sunday's blocking atrocities only heightened already-acute issues in several organizations. I couldn't help but watch these games and turn to my colleagues on The NFL Today and comment about this team needing a new tackle or that team needing a new tackle. It's a significant upgrade that could sway the balance of power in a division -- if not a conference. Here is a sampling of the teams that caught my eye:
I'm surprised Carson Palmer made it through Sunday's game at Carolina, and he might not make it through the season. And if he doesn't, this team is cooked and going nowhere -- and even if he does, as presently constructed, this isn't a Super Bowl team.
The Cardinals need a boost on offense and grabbing Thomas would make them much better at two key positions. The Cardinals could move Jared Veldheer to right tackle, where D.J. Humphries has been brutal. A Panthers team that has had no bite all season -- with Charles Johnson looking near the finish and the other starting end, Kony Ealy, entering the game without a sack -- absolutely destroyed the Cardinals in the trenches Sunday.
If that didn't give Keim and coach Brice Arians pause, I don't know what will. The Cards already have spent a lot of coin, but this problem won't fix itself. Eight sacks allowed at Carolina? Come on.
Will Russell Okung stay healthy? That's a big if there, and when right tackle Donald Stephenson missed a game with injury the Falcons trashed the right side of the Broncos line. The defending Super Bowl champs have the highest of expectations and are treading a very fine line here. Siemian is very limited and can't get the ball downfield at all. Good defenses could really expose this unit come January and few are as willing to make bold moves as John Elway.
Andrew Luck was sacked six times by the Chiefs, who were without their best defensive player, Justin Houston. It easily could have been worse. Indianapolis' offensive line woes are deep and widely known, and sliding in Thomas and moving Anthony Castonzo to the right side might be huge.
The AFC South is largely flawed and still within reach. GM Ryan Grigson made a bold move dealing a top pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson to try to boost his team a few years back, and while that didn't pan out, this very well could. I wouldn't let that deter me now, with the pressure mounting once again on the coach and GM in Indy.
OK, they don't play until Monday night, and their opponent, the Bears, has a weak defense. But I bet you Sam Bradford gets knocked around some. Go back and watch the film of the Vikings game at Philadelphia last week. I dare you. It's as bad as any you will see, and there is nothing close to a playoff-caliber left tackle on the roster.
It may be a moot point after giving up so much for Bradford via trade a few months ago, and they only have $600,000 in cap space -- so they would have to play around with some other contracts -- but it's at least worth internal consideration.
OK, they had a bye, but this offensive line has been abused all season. Yet another scenario where their left tackle, Erick Flowers, would be a lot better on the right side and Eli Manning has been under duress far too often.
The receivers need time to do what they do best to make this team go, and the Giants need to score big to stay in games. The defense still ain't all that. After that huge free-agent splurge, there is still ample cap room and ample need. With GM Jerry Reese under scrutiny and coach Tom Coughlin already pushed out after last season, finding a way to clean up this line would be a massive in-season boost.
Few love to trade more than Schneider, and Seattle's offensive line issues have reached epidemic proportions. Poor Russell Wilson has suffered knee and ankle injuries and has been hobbled most of the season. O-line coach Tom Cable can only coach up so many guys.
Schneider has gone big for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham via trades in the past, and the Seahawks' draft picks are always very low, anyway. Yes, it's another significant contract to take on, but Paul Allen has the cash and this move could put this team over the top. Wilson and Thomas have some ties through the University of Wisconsin. He would be a great fit there.
So there you have it. Did I miss any teams? That should be enough to spur action at the normally dormant deadline, and San Francisco's Joe Staley should be a cheaper consolation prize (assuming the 49ers' asking price isn't ridiculous, which could be a big assumption). There are too many factors that would make something like this seem like common sense. Maybe someone steps up.
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