Joe Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last Sunday, putting an end to our favorite annual NFL tradition. For the first time we can remember, there will be no rumors about the Browns shopping Thomas for a potential trade.
The Browns’ annual futility leaves many wondering if they might trade away veterans like Thomas for draft picks toward their never-ending rebuilding process.
Cleveland’s last season with a winning record was 2007. Incidentally, that was Thomas’ rookie season, and the Browns went 10-6. In a very Browns turn of events, they still missed the playoffs.
But Thomas has played his entire career like the franchise left tackle the team hoped he’d be. The six-time first-team All-Pro has also made the Pro Bowl in every single season of his career. And yet rumors about Thomas being up for grabs became an annual thing.
Joe Thomas trade rumors first started circulating in 2013
And they originated with Joe Thomas himself. General manager Michael Lombardi and head coach Rob Chudzinski were in charge, albeit briefly. It was the first full season that Jimmy Haslam owned the team, and the Browns were 3-5 heading into the deadline.
The Browns shipped Trent Richardson off to Indianapolis in September for a first-round pick. Thomas told NFL Network that he thought every player was fair game.
“We are all on the trading block,” he said.
Trade rumors about Thomas swirled once again in 2015
Meet the new Browns ... the same as the old Browns. Sure, they had a different head coach, as Mike Pettine was in his second season at the helm. Lombardi was a goner, replaced by new general manager Ray Farmer. The team took a year off from trade talks in 2014, perhaps because they actually had a winning record gong into the deadline for once.
But 2015, well, that was a different story. The Browns were 2-6 at the trade deadline, and the team basically tried to set up a fire sale. Thomas and All-Pro center Alex Mack were both on the block, as was linebacker Barkevious Mingo. The Broncos were interested in Thomas, but the Browns wanted two first-round picks, and Denver balked.
Mack had a no-trade clause in his contract, and he said he wouldn’t consider waiving it. He also had the ability to opt out of his contract after the 2015 season, and the threat of a trade that season may be part of the reason he did just that and landed with the Falcons.
Thomas said publicly that he wanted to stay with the Browns, but reports suggested he actually asked for a trade. We can’t blame him.
2016 was more of the same for Joe Thomas
Another year, another trade rumor. It was Hue Jackson’s first season as Cleveland’s head coach, and the Browns were winless going into the deadline. The Browns were staring down another year of futility, and moving Thomas would have given them even more draft capital to work with as they rebuilt.
Thomas didn’t want to go. He made it clear that his goal was to stay in Cleveland and help the Browns turn things around. And when the deadline came and went, that’s exactly what happened. Well, the first part happened, anyway.
Thomas’ season-ending triceps tear in Week 7 shattered a streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps in Cleveland. He’s consistency personified, trapped in an offense that has been anything but. And the team is hoping he will recover fully and return next season.
“I promised him that when he is back, if he is back, that we are going to get this thing figured out because he is Cleveland Browns football,” Jackson said. “He is a guy that keeps us all going and moving forward. We owe him more than what we have given him thus far.”
Thomas trade rumors are not the only delightful Thomas tradition. We look forward to his official team photo every year, because nobody has more fun with that than Thomas.
He also has the distinction of being the NFL’s very first offensive lineman, which is really something.
Okay, fine. That is objectively false. But Thomas’ sense of humor is undefeated.
The injury hasn’t just robbed us of Thomas on the field. It’s robbed Thomas of a potential opportunity to be traded to a contender, or at least be rumored as a potential trade. He’s enjoyed just one winning season with the Browns over his decade in the league. He deserves better, but his loyalty is impressive.
Here’s hoping for a full recovery so the Thomas trade rumors can fire up again next season.