Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is a 6-time First Team All Pro, 2-time Second Team All Pro that hasn’t missed a snap in his career and is destined for the Hall of Fame. He’s seen seven regime changes with the Browns and he’s earned the right to be fed up with all the changes. Thomas wishes that the new front offices would focus more on retaining the talent in the building than starting from scratch every single year.
"Certainly that's one of the frustrations that I've had over the years," Thomas said Wednesday. "That's the problem when you're constantly hitting the reset button. Guys that are really good players like that end up falling through the cracks or going to other teams because any time a new staff comes in basically they wipe out the middle class.
"They keep a couple of your 'superstars' and then they want everyone else being a rookie so that they can try to develop them. When you keep doing that over and over again you really lose all your middle class on your team."
The statement is relevant since the Patriots have been guilty of raiding the Browns in recent years, including players like RB Dion Lewis and ED Jabaal Sheard. Other teams like the Jets (CB Buster Skrine), Dolphins (TE Jordan Cameron), Chargers (WR Travis Benjamin), Chiefs (OT Mitchell Schwartz), Broncos (S T.J. Ward) and Falcons (C Alex Mack) have poached players that the Browns had developed into quality players.
"Those are the guys, they disappear," Thomas said. "Even though those are the guys you spent the time, you drafted them, spent the time developing them and right when they're hitting stride, the peaks of their career, they end up going somewhere else and having great success for somebody else."
If the Browns found a way to retain their players, they probably wouldn’t be starting from scratch again. Instead, the Patriots and other rivals are taking advantage of the instability of weaker teams.
Thomas was almost traded to the Broncos last season, so even he isn’t protected by all the changes. Perhaps Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who happens to be a fan, could make a call if Marcus Cannon doesn’t step up his level of play.
“[Thomas is] one of the top players in the league consistently year after year,” Belichick said on Tuesday. “He has got a great sense of timing, how long to stay on it, when to come off the linebacker, how to shove those guys over to the guard and that type of thing. He's very good in pass protection, hard to get around him on the edge, he's long, he has got very good feet and he does an excellent job on the inside move and gains.”
“Joe Thomas has been one of the top left tackles in the league pretty much since he came into the league,” Belichick added.
Belichick appears to have an open door if Thomas wants to join the rest of his former teammates in New England. As the Browns look to be in the middle of yet another rebuilding process, maybe Thomas would be interested, too.