On day two of last year’s draft, the New England Patriots made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers: the club sent a third-round pick to the 49ers to acquire offensive tackle Trent Brown as well as a fifth-round selection that would later turn into linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. The trade was a massive one for the Patriots as Brown became their starting left tackle while Bentley showed plenty of promise before a season-ending injury.
One year after the move, the Patriots should again have interest in one of the 49ers’ players: according to a report by Pro Football Talk, San Francisco is shopping defensive edge Solomon Thomas just two years after drafting him third overall. While the 23-year-old appeared in 30 games for the club over the last two seasons, he failed to improve from year one to year two and live up to the expectations of being a high first-round draft pick.
With Nick Bosa potentially available with the second overall pick, the 49ers are reportedly ready to move on from Thomas and New England should give old friend John Lynch, San Francisco’s general manager, a call. After all, Thomas is a tremendous but at times miscast talent, that could benefit greatly from a change of scenery. The Patriots would represent one and in turn likely find a role for the athletically gifted but inconsistent defender.
New England, of course, lost its top edge defender — Trey Flowers — to the Detroit Lions in free agency. And despite adding Michael Bennett via trade and having Deatrich Wise Jr. and John Simon return, the group could benefit from a young developmental option with high upside. Thomas would be just that, despite his so far underwhelming and potentially soon-ending two-year stint with the 49ers.
“Thomas shows repeatedly that he at least knows how to defeat blockers both inside and out, against the run and against the pass,” wrote former NFL player and SB Nation analyst Stephen White about Thomas during 2017’s pre-draft process. “He’s a physical specimen with a decent level of technique. It’s going to come down to whether teams think he will fix his effort issues on the next level, and, since his hands aren’t likely to grow any more at this point, if he can get his hands stronger.”
Effort is a key point here, as Thomas was prone to take plays off in college — a trait that has gotten better at the next level. However, he has still not grown into the player he should be given his athleticism and physical makeup: despite his talents and getting plenty of chances as a starting defensive end in San Francisco’s defense, the Stanford product notched only a combined 4.0 sacks between his 2017 rookie campaign and last year.
That being said, the upside is undoubtably there and New England would have the ammunition to make a move. The Patriots have twelve draft picks — six of which in the first three rounds — and could afford to part with at least one of them with a player of Thomas’ caliber available; it is highly unlikely that this many rookies would make the team to begin with. Investing in a player like Thomas might therefore be a smart move, similar to trading for Brown one year ago.