With the Browns again at the bottom of the standings and on the heels of shedding expensive veterans like Alex Mack and Paul Kruger in the offseason, contending teams are assessing what it might take to land star left tackle Joe Thomas, according to league sources.
The Browns have maintained they would not deal Thomas, 31, in the past, but with the team winless and already on its third quarterback, and with injuries mounting and Josh Gordon now in rehab, rival execs believe the franchise tackle could be in play if the price is right. The Browns turned down an offer from the Broncos last year that would have sent promising pass rusher Shane Ray and a second-round pick to Cleveland, sources said. Some execs believe a tackle-needy contender could offer a first-round pick before the Nov. 1 trade deadline.
The Seahawks, Cardinals and Panthers are all contending teams who could use a significant upgrade to their offensive lines. Assuming Thomas's salary (he would be owed roughly $4 million for the duration of the season if dealt at the deadline) would require some teams to surpass their budgets, though watching their franchise quarterbacks get pummeled each week might be sufficient motivation for one to part with key assets and dig deep into the wallet to do so.
The Browns are years away from contending. Thomas has been incredibly loyal and immensely respected there but has never experienced winning and is starting to reach the tail end of his career. He is signed through 2018, making $8.8 million each in 2017 and 2018, and has been one of the game's elite left tackles throughout his long tenure with the team, with the rest of the roster often mediocre at best and with a revolving door of quarterbacks behind him in the backfield.