As the Browns search for a left tackle to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, the best option could be hiding right next door.
Left guard Joel Bitonio, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2017, took some snaps at left tackle during the offseason program, and the door vaguely seems to be open on more of the same.
“We put Joel and Chris [Hubbard] over there for a few snaps because this is the time to do it,” offensive line coach Bob Wylie recently said regarding the offseason workouts, via Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It’s the time to experiment. Once you get into camp you get more zeroed in on the guys who will actually play.”
So could it be Bitonio?
“Just because you’re the best guy doesn’t mean you’re in the best spot,” Wylie said. “Joel is an elite left guard. Could he play tackle? Sure, but it would take a while for him to learn the nuances. If he’s the best lineman, is he really the best left tackle? Not necessarily.”
Bitonio, who received a contract extension under the premise that he’s a guard not a tackle, seems to be willing to do whatever the team wants.
“Anything they need I’m willing to give a try, but I think right now the plan is to find a guy to play left tackle, and I’m going to stick right at left guard,” Bitonio recently said.
Shon Coleman is expected to open training camp at the top option at left tackle. Where it goes from there remains to be seen, but if they could find a left guard who plays well enough in place of Bitonio, the best move for the short- and long-term could be to slide Bitonio to the outside.