Following the Denver Broncos decision to pass on picking up Russell Okung's option, the team has an immense hole at left tackle. The Broncos offensive line was shaky and inconsistent at best in 2016, but Okung was arguably the second-best player of the starting five, behind center Matt Paradis.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1757296-combine-sale-get-5-months... Left tackle is considered to be one of the cornerstones of a championship-caliber roster in the NFL, along with quarterback, edge rusher and cornerback. And right now, Denver is missing that foundational piece.
Okung's play didn't justify the money he was set to earn with the Broncos in 2017 and beyond, so GM John Elway took a calculated risk in moving on. But now moving into the third season without stability on the O-line, Denver's front office czar could be looking for a massive win, even if it comes on the trade market.
The Broncos are unhappy with Ty Sambrailo's lack of development and could be looking for a known commodity to plug in at left tackle — someone they can set and forget. One candidate is the Cleveland Browns All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas.
The Broncos explored a trade with the Browns for Thomas leading up to the trade deadline in 2015, but Elway felt that Cleveland's ask was too rich for his blood. Almost two years removed from those initial discussions, Elway could be approaching this situation with a new perspective.
The Broncos have two young quarterbacks and a new coaching staff, and they need a lynchpin to protect the blindside and anchor in the running game. At 32 years old, Thomas is under contract through 2018 and has shown no signs of slowing down.
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He's been named to the All-Pro team in each season dating back to 2008, with seven of them as a first-teamer, including 2016. Thomas' cap number for 2017 and 2018 is $10 million, which the Broncos would be happy to pay.
The question would be Cleveland's compensation via trade.
At one point in 2015, Cleveland wanted Denver's first and second round pick in 2016, along with either linebacker Shaq Barrett, or Denver's third round pick, according to reports. Denver would have received Thomas and a Cleveland fourth rounder.
With two seasons under the bridge since those discussions, the Broncos and the Browns both could be approaching this topic from a different vantage point. The free agent market offers some decent options at left tackle for the Broncos, but none of them really scream "set and forget".
Of this year's free agent tackle class, questions from age, to scheme fit, to health make it difficult for Denver to land on a known commodity they could count on moving forward. That doesn't mean there isn't a guy out there, but the trade market could offer the solutions to Denver's problem.
The new league year opens March 9. I wouldn't be shocked if Elway orchestrates a rare blockbuster trade to acquire a known commodity at left tackle, especially considering that they have 10 selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, which includes four compensatory picks.
For the first time, those compensatory picks can be traded this year.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.