Browns hopeful a decision from Joe Thomas is on the horizon
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns learned what life is like without left tackle Joe Thomas in 2017. Head coach Hue Jackson is hoping to not relive that this fall.
The Cleveland Browns know that, sooner or later, they are going to have to find a replacement for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.
While the club will possibly look for a new left tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft, head coach Hue Jackson is hoping that player will not have to take the field in 2018.
Thomas missed the latter half of the 2017 season after suffering a torn triceps in a game against the Tennessee Titans. He has not said whether or not he will return for another season this fall, but Jackson, speaking on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, is hopeful, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
"“We’re going to do everything we can to be prepared whether he plays or he doesn’t play. And I think that’s what our responsibility is. I think he understands that, too, because he wants the best for the organization as well. I think he’ll come out and let us know here fairly soon about what he wants to do.”"
Once Thomas went down with his injury, second-year guard Spencer Drango did his best to fill in at left tackle, but ultimately ended up making life more difficult for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
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It is widely expected that Thomas will let the Browns know his decision by the start of free agency on March 14, but even if he does come back for another year, it is incumbent on the Browns to start working to find his eventual replacement this offseason.
Free agency could be one option as the Browns have more than $100 million in available cap space to spend, but the offerings are not overly attractive.
Among the list of possible candidates in free agency, according to indystar.com, are Justin Pugh of the New York Giants, who has been injured each of the past two seasons; Chris Hubbard of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could benefit (or be hurt) by offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s familiarity with him; and a trio of New England Patriots: Nate Solder, a good run blocker but not the type of pass blocker that allows his quarterback to sleep well at night; Cameron Fleming, who can’t keep a starting job; and LaAdrian Waddle, who is better suited as a backup than a starter.
The Browns also have a dozen draft selections in the upcoming draft, so that may be a better bet. According to Pro Football Focus, some of the tackles that Browns fans might want to get to know include Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame, Connor Williams of Texas, Orlando Brown of Oklahoma, Jamarco Jones of Ohio State (a Buckeye!) and Tyrell Crosby of Oregon.
Cleveland’s quarterbacks got a taste last season of what life is like without Thomas protecting their backside.
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If he doesn’t come back in 2018, and the team fails to find a suitable replacement, then this year’s quarterback room may be filled with players working hard to avoid being on the field.