As we saw this season, the Rams drastically improved their offensive line play just by bring in Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Across the league, offensive line play has regressed over the past few seasons, increasing the value of elite offensive lineman even further. One of the best in the business is Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas, and he could be available…for the right price.
Now unlike Whitworth, Thomas is not a free agent this summer. In fact he has one year left on his contract worth $14.25 million dollars. To start his career, Thomas started 167 straight games, playing in 10,363 straight snaps. However, in week seven he suffered a triceps injury that ended his streak and season. After suffering the injury, Thomas considered retirement but general manager John Dorsey expects him to return in 2018.
However, that return might not be for the Browns. While there is no report — or even rumor — that the Browns plan to move on from Thomas, there is a case for it. Thomas will turn 34 during the 2018 season and has to be tired of losing. The Browns are looking at a long rebuilding project and Thomas won’t be part of it. They may decide to trade him out of respect for him, while acquiring more draft picks to jump start the rebuild. Now while these five options are pure speculation, check out these seven NFL trades that should happen.
Option 1: Thomas and pick #35 to the Patriots picks #31 and #41/43.
The Patriots are likely to lose starting left tackle Nate Solder in free agency, as he is the top offensive lineman on the free agency market. Replacing Solder with Thomas would provide an upgrade at a much cheaper cost. Last off-season the Patriots showed they were willing to trade draft picks in order to bring in veteran, proven players and Thomas would well be worth the draft picks if Solder leaves in free agency.
The Browns would swap the Texans second round pick into a late first round pick. This is critical because first round picks have the fifth year option and teams will covet trading up in order to have that option, opening more potential trade options for the Browns on draft night. The Patriots will also send the 49ers second round pick which will either be #41 or #43 depending on the coin flip at the combine between them and the Raiders.
Option 2: Thomas to the Seahawks for Richard Sherman, Duane Brown and pick #122.
The Seahawks did trade two draft picks for Duane Brown during the season, but he struggled in Seattle. Upgrading with Thomas at left tackle would provide leadership to a young offensive line unit. With this trade the Seahawks would open up $7.25 million in cap space while finally fixing their offensive line problem, which would allow them to use their first round pick filling another hole. The draft pick they are giving up is just a fourth rounder, and the Seahawks have plenty of day three picks.
For the Browns, this trade would bring back two starters at two key positions. Richard Sherman is in the last year of his deal and the Browns have lacked a number one cornerback since Joe Haden was playing well. The Brown can let him play out the last year of his deal to see if he is 100% healed from a torn Achilles, then get a long term deal done next off-season. Brown would give the team a good left tackle to replace Thomas and protect whoever is playing quarterback for them next season.
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Option 3: Thomas to the Jets for pick #37.
If the Jets want to land Kirk Cousins in free agency, they better throw a lot of money at him and provide him with a good offensive line. We have seen that Cousins struggles when his offensive line is banged up. Ideally the Jets would hope to land Saquon Barkley in the first round, trade Thomas for pick #37 and then draft an offensive lineman with pick #49. Bringing in Thomas to protect Cousins’ blindside is well worth the first of their two second round picks.
Adding the Jets second round pick would give the Browns five in the top 40 of the draft. That means they can potentially add five players who could start day one for them. They could also combine two of their top five picks in the second round and move up back into the first round if a player they like starts to slide. If the Browns want to move Thomas, this might be the highest pick they could add.
Option 4: Thomas to the Texans for pick #68 and the Seahawks 2019 second round pick.
After trading Duane Brown mid-season trade to the Seahawks, the Texans offensive line was a mess. The future of the franchise, Deshaun Watson, is coming off his second ACL tear in four years. The Texans need to protect his blindside, but they don’t have a first or second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to do that with. Unless they can sign Nate Solder in free agency, trading for Thomas should be their focus. The Texans do have two other third round picks (#80 and #98) they can use to sweeten the deal with the Browns. Protecting Watson should be the Texans’ top priority this off-season.
The Browns already have six picks in the top 65 of the draft this year, but have only an extra seventh round pick in next year’s draft. With this trade they would acquire their seventh pick in the top 68 and add a second round pick next season. The Browns know their rebuilding protect will take a few years, so acquiring picks in next year’s draft should prove just as valuable.
Option 5: Thomas to the Giants for pick #66, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2019 third round pick.
Ereck Flowers is clearly not the answer at left tackle for the Giants. While Thomas can’t be expected to be the long-term answer either, he will at least give the Giants strong play for a few years. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is likely to be released, so throwing him in the trade doesn’t affect the Giants’ off-season outlook. Trading away two third round picks to fix the biggest problem for the Giants is a smart move to make if they want to take advantage of the last few years Eli Manning has left.
While this is the least interesting offer for the Browns, it does offer a good return. The Browns add another pick on Day Two giving them seven in the top 66 of the draft, and a pick to add to their collection in next year’s draft. While Rodgers-Cromartie had a down year last season, he would provide an upgrade over current starter Jamar Taylor. Rodgers-Cromartie is also entering the last year of his deal, so the Browns would have no long-term commitment to him should he continue his downward slide.