It seems that failure, constant rebuild and a seven-game losing streak have all teamed up to replace rationality when it comes to Cleveland Browns fans these days. I mean, that is the only way to comprehend being okay or even in favor of the latest Joe Thomas trade rumors.
Dating back to 1999, the Cleveland Browns have made selections in the first round of the NFL Draft 21 times. Aside from potentially six players (Tim Couch, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Danny Shelton, Corey Coleman and Thomas), it is safe to label the other 15 selections busts or massive disappointments at this time. Yes, I put Couch in the non-bust section—comments and DMs are open.
When it comes to the man who wears No. 73, there isn't a debate of where among the 21 players selected by the Cleveland Browns since 1999 Thomas ranks—he is No. 1.
Thomas was selected No. 3 by the Browns in the 2007 NFL Draft after the likes of JaMarcus Russell (thank you Al Davis) and Calvin Johnson. In his draft profile on Scout.com, Thomas was touted as, “a near perfect tackle prospect, he’s an athletic big man with a great heart, toughness, and the type of attitude that every team wants; he takes it extremely personally when he misses on a play. He’s a phenomenal pass blocker, a steamroller for the running game, and can get downfield to make big plays home runs. He could stand to get bigger and is more of a technician than a killer, but he’ll be a rock on the line for ten years.”
Re-read that last section again, because it has significance today, “…but he’ll be a rock on the line for ten years.”
The 2016 season is Thomas’ 10th in the NFL (all with the Cleveland Browns), and he has been more than a rock on the line. He has transcended the way the left tackle position is played to the point where NFL analysts ask the question during the draft process, “Is player X the next Joe Thomas?” Looking back at the players selected after him to-date, the answer to that question can pretty much be answered with a resounding “No” over and over again.
When it comes to the man playing left tackle for the Browns, the accolades speak for themselves: Nine-time Pro Bowler, six-time First-team All-Pro and two-time Second-team All-Pro. It is safe to say another accolade will be attributed to his award sheet when it is all said and done one day as well, and it will be accompanied by a bust of epic proportions down in Canton, Ohio. That accolade will read, “Joe Thomas, Hall of Famer.”
For some reason, though, many fans are treating Thomas like his career in Cleveland is over—or he is on some sort of massive decline. But the numbers, the film and certainly one of the top player grading metric websites in the NFL completely disagree.
Let’s start with the number 151, aka the number of games in a row Thomas has started since coming into the NFL. Want to enhance that number a little bit? Okay, 151 of 151—or for those of you at home who prefer percentages, 100 percent. That is the number of games Thomas has played since being drafted out of Wisconsin 10 years ago.
Ready for a second number? Zero—that is the number of snaps Thomas has missed since donning the orange and brown for the first time since the 2007 season. To quantify how monumental of a streak that is, Cam Erving left Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals because of an “undisclosed illness” and has only been in the league since last year.
An article from Tom Reed of Cleveland.com last year depicted Thomas’ dedication to never leaving the field perfectly. Thomas stated in a podcast, “Our offensive line coach sends in my backup to take me out of the game not knowing there’s any streak or anything like that because that’s not something talked about or coaches think about…I just turned to him…pointed to the sideline and I swore at him, ‘Get the…out of here.”
The article went on to detail some of the injuries Thomas has played through in his career, “The left tackle has played through three torn MCLs and a pair of high ankle sprains with the Browns.”
Here comes your third number—9,262. That’s how many consecutive snaps Thomas played prior to the Browns game on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he played every snap once again. Every single snap, the good and mostly the bad for the team, that you as a fan have agonized over as the team has gone 47-98 to date in his 10 seasons, Thomas was there for.
Yes, I know I set myself up for an easy challenge there in the last line, it was done on purpose.
One of the most common complaints from fans right now is the fact the Browns are not good and have not been good during Thomas’ tenure with the team, so that seemingly makes it okay to “get what you can get” for Thomas.
However, an article last year titled “Why Browns Would be Crazy to Trade Joe Thomas” from Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus puts it better than anyone truly could when it comes to why the team should not trade him.
From the money side of things, Monson stated, “Thomas has a very team-friendly contract, with no guaranteed money, a roster bonus of just $1 million and a total cap hit of $9.5 million for 2016, and two more years after that in which his cap hit never exceeds $10 million according to overthecap.com. That figure would be the fifth-highest salary cap mark this season for left tackles, for a player who has been the best tackle in the game for almost the entirety of his NFL career.”
Monson’s article from last year continued, “The Browns know they need ammunition to rebuild, but if you trade Thomas the first thing you need to do is make sure you have a viable left tackle in place. Cleveland has been spoiled by being able to forget about that spot and take it for granted for the last nine years, but it’s worth looking across the rest of the NFL landscape and appreciating just how much worse the situation can get…Bad offensive tackles have the ability to almost single-handedly disrupt an offense, and it has never been more difficult to secure a quality tackle than right now. Even teams that take one in the top few picks of the draft are far from guaranteed success given the fortunes of recent seasons, and even those that are seeing the return in that investment have had to suffer through growing pains.”
The article concluded, “There are players that the Browns might be wise to trade away – guys who have failed to live up to their billing or players that the team might realistically hope to replace from within without suffering too much of a drop-off in performance. Joe Thomas is not one of them. The chances of replacing Thomas directly and not experiencing a colossal weakening at the position is negligible. All trading Thomas does for you is open up a gaping wound in the roster that could take years to heal.”
The intriguing thing about when this article was written a year ago? Rumors were swirling the Browns could get a first-round pick from the Denver Broncos or another left tackle-needy team. Now here we sit, one year later, and Pro Football Talk is reporting their “source with knowledge of the situation” says the Browns would take a second-round pick for Thomas.
Thomas has not declined since last year, his contract situation has not changed and he certainly has not demanded a trade from the organization—so why is there a reported devaluation of the pick and a willingness (from fans and the organization) to take the deal? Furthermore, when you truly look at where the pick could land, the deal just does not make sense.
The rumored teams of interest are the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and even the New England Patriots. This means that in the best scenario (Arizona) the pick would end up in the middle of the second round at best if they finished where they are. However, the expectation would be the addition of Thomas would give Carson Palmer more time, thus leading to a better record and playoff appearance with their talented offense, thus moving the pick further down the draft board.
So let me get this straight. Browns fans, the same exact Browns fans who have lost their minds over failure and failure in the draft dating back to 1999, would be okay with shipping the best player since the team returned for likely at best, the No. 46 pick in the NFL Draft unless something really crazy happened and the Cardinals or another team went on a downward-spiral?
Sorry to be the buster of the bubble here fellow Browns fans, but I’m going to have to jump off this trade train. You simply do not replace one of the greatest linemen of all-time with a second-round pick just because “the team is not going to be better any time soon.”
Why create a void and massive hole on an already terrible rest of the offensive line in the name of getting another draft pick in 2017? You know, a draft in which the team already owns an extra first (Philadelphia), extra second (Tennessee) and extra fifth (New England). Oh, and let’s not forget about how many draft picks and undrafted rookies the Browns added to their roster this year.
Finally, we have not even touched on the dedication, loyalty and representation of the Cleveland Browns organization Thomas has shown and continues to show despite the everlasting presence of adversity.
Other players have come and gone because they could not take the losing and constant change. Many of them have taken to both local and national media to express their feelings prior to and after they walked out that door and left the organization behind—and that is their right as professionals.
Thomas—more than any other player since 1999—owns that right as well. Instead, he continues to tell anyone and everyone who will ask, the same thing. “I’m not a quitter. I’m not a guy that gives up on my goals and my goal from day one was to be part of the turnaround here and that hasn’t changed.” Thomas continued, “…I want to be here. I want to finish my career here. I want to be part of the turnaround here. That’s the way it is sometimes, you’ve got to control the things you can control.”
Since 2007, numerous coaches, front offices, scouting departments and even a couple different owners have walked in and out of the Berea, Ohio front doors. Hundreds of players have been drafted, signed, traded and cut. There have been arrests and there have been suspensions. We have questioned the effort of players, and have questioned whether or not they want to be in Cleveland and be part of this franchise for the long-term.
Aside from drafting and signing, none of the above applies to Joe Thomas.
Thomas has represented the only sense of stability on this team and in this organization for 10 years. He enjoys his job and has remained committed to turning around things since Day 1 and when he signed his contract extension, when he could have just as easily walked out that door like many before him and many after.
Forget the rumors and forget about another second-round draft pick. The only time you should want No. 73 to wear anything but a Cleveland Browns uniform is when we all take that short trip down I-77 to watch him slip on a gold jacket for the first time, and be immortalized in NFL history as a member of the Cleveland Browns. It is what he wants and has repeated over and over again, and it is what you should want as a Browns fan too.null