Joe Thomas is the best offensive tackle in the National Football League. He also apparently wouldn’t mind being traded from the Cleveland Browns.
This is just another example of the team’s new front office struggling a great deal early in its tenure. Having already lost Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin and Tashaun Gipson in free agency, the perennial cellar-dwellers seem to be in the early stages of yet another rebuild project.
In this, it might make sense for the team to cater to Thomas’ hopes and engage in trade discussions surrounding the 31-year-old nine-time Pro Bowler.
If so, what teams might show the most interest in the future Hall of Fame tackle?
After signing guard Kelechi Osemele away from the Baltimore Ravens at the start of free agency, Oakland has built a bully upfront. Add in the re-signing of veteran left tackle Donald Penn, and there’s a whole heck of a lot to like about this unit.
In no way does this mean that general manager Reggie McKenzie should stop here.
If Oakland were able to land the best left tackle in the game, it would then be able to move Penn to the right side as a replacement for the mediocre Austin Howard, the team’s weakest link along the offensive line.
Some may conclude that Oakland has already invested too much in the offensive line. That’s a narrow-minded approach worthy of this organization’s old thinking.
A likely contender for the AFC West title next season, acquiring Thomas would potentially make the Raiders division favorites. Yielding a second-round pick in this scenario wouldn’t be too expensive.
While Chicago did add offensive tackle Bobby Massie in free agency, that signing was meant to move Kyle Long inside to guard. This still leaves a relatively big hole along the outside of the team’s offensive line.
Still $27.9 million under the cap after a successful free agency period, Chicago has the cash to take on Thomas’ contract. It also has a huge need at tackle, potentially even on the left side.
With five picks in the top 130, Chicago also boasts the necessary bait to get a deal done here. In reality, would anyone in the Windy City be opposed to the team yielding a second rounder for Thomas?
We already know Tennessee is likely going to land top offensive tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil with the first pick in April’s draft. But what if the team decided to trade down from that slot and use some of the assets acquired in said deal to trade for Thomas?
Not only would this give Tennessee a proven blindside protector for young quarterback Marcus Mariota, it would enable the struggling franchise to find upgrades at other areas in the draft.
Based on Thomas’ relatively advanced age of 31, Cleveland isn’t going to get a first-round pick for the offensive tackle. In this, the Titans could reasonably yield a second rounder for the veteran while still boasting a top-10 pick come draft time.
If that’s the case and should a team be willing to give up a large bounty, it’s within the realm of possibility that one of those picks could be used to acquire Thomas.
Having lost starting left tackle Russell Okung to the Denver Broncos in free agency, Seattle is in desperate need of finding a blindside protector for franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. That’s only magnified by the team’s horrendous offensive line play from a season ago.
The primary issue here is money. Seattle finds itself just $8.4 million under the cap, money that’s going to be allocated to signing its rookie class.
Set to count $9.5 million against the cap in 2016, Thomas might simply be too expensive for Seattle’s taste right now.
It’s also important to note that Seattle yielded a first-round pick in last year’s draft for Jimmy Graham. Do general manager John Schneider and Co. want to continue giving up future assets for veteran players?
Either way we spin it, Seattle’s biggest issue is pass protection. In this, it might be forced to go after Thomas as a way to provide Wilson with the protection he desperately needs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers made it clear that their top priority after selecting Jameis Winston No. 1 overall last year was to provide him with the necessary protection upfront. After all, their next two picks were used on offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet.
While Marpet performed at a high level as a rookie guard, it’s abundantly clear that Smith isn’t going to be an above-average left tackle in the NFL. He’s best suited playing right tackle, an obvious indication that Tampa Bay will be looking for blindside help at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Picking 39th overall in the second round, Tampa Bay has that one asset the Browns might covet in a potential deal. It also boasts nearly $26 million in cap room. What’s to stop the two sides from coming together in a trade? It seems too logical.