For the last two trade deadlines and last offseason, many have wondered if the Browns were finally going to mercy-trade left tackle Joe Thomas to a contender.
But Browns coach Hue Jackson wants to stop that talk before it starts this offseason, promising that he’d protect Thomas as long as he was the coach there.
“That’s not happening or I’m going with him, okay?” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I guarantee you that. I’m going with him. No, Joe Thomas means too much to this organization and to this football team. As I said to everybody, I want us to do right by him. Right by that is let’s go get this man some wins. He deserves that.
“He deserves to be on a winning football team and have a chance to chase playoffs and championships. That’s why you’re here. . . . We have to get this thing right for those guys because it’s truly what it is about — our fans, our organization — but those players, they give a lot and we have to give it back to them.”
That’s the kind if impassioned plea that makes players love Jackson, but it also doesn’t make sense if you boil it down to the facts. Thomas is one of the best players in the league at his position on a team that’s years from contending. He’s borderline expensive ($8.8 million the next two years) and getting older (32), and the Browns cleared out guys with smaller numbers on both those scales this offseason.
When asked about Jackson’s vow to leave if he did, Thomas joked: “Oh, that’s nice of him. Where we going, the Bahamas? I’m in.”
But he also said he wants the same thing Jackson wants, in the same place.
“From the moment that Hue got here, him and I have had a close relationship and it’s built on trust and honesty and we both like how the other person operates and how they do their business,” Thomas said. “I’ve been an admirer of Hue since his days in Oakland even and then when we’d play them twice a year with Cincinnati, I always really respected him as a coach and I enjoyed talking with him after games.
“Since he’s been here I have really even had another level of respect for the way he has handled this difficult season and kind of the difficult cards that he’s been dealt. I don’t think there’s many coaches in the NFL — in all of NFL history — that would have been able to handle this situation as well as he has. . . . He means so much to this team and to these players right now and I think we all feel very fortunate that he’s our head coach.”
Of course, when you’re 0-12, it’s hard to imagine how many are truly safe, and whether Jackson and Thomas get to fulfill their wish in Cleveland depends on getting more players, and quickly.