CINCINNATI — Eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas insisted he isn’t bitter about the Browns coming close to shipping him to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday before the NFL’s trade deadline passed.
“Not really,” Thomas said Thursday after the Browns fell 31-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. “I’m a realist. I understand the business side of things. We’re all commodities. There’s a price on every one of us. If somebody offered 10 first-round picks for (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady, they’d probably get rid of Tom Brady, and he’s probably the best player that ever played.
“It doesn’t really bother me that they listened to people that offered things. It’s kind of like you’re walking down the street and somebody says, ‘Hey, nice watch. You want to sell it?’ You say, ‘Well, it’s not for sale.’ But then you think and go, ‘Well, what will you give me?’ It’s just a matter of what the price is. Obviously, from the sounds of it, it was close but no cigar.”
Denver’s 9News reported the Broncos offered their first-round pick in the 2017 draft and a second-round selection next year in exchange for Thomas and the Browns’ third-round choice in 2016. The Browns offered Thomas and a fifth-round pick in 2016, according to the report, and wouldn’t budge.
If the deal had gone through, Thomas would have been upset.
“Certainly I would have been really crushed being traded and leaving all these guys that you work so hard with and all these coaches and the people that are in this building and these fans, all the things that I’ve worked for since I’ve got here, the goals I have currently,” Thomas said. “But in the end, it’s a business. The greatest players in history get cut, get traded. That’s just the way it is.”
After the Browns suffered a 34-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, Thomas heard other teams had called about trading for him. Reports about those discussions surfaced the morning of game day.
Thomas, 30, didn’t put much stock into the chatter until a couple of days later.
“We were actually in (offensive line) meetings on Tuesday when the trade deadline was coming up,” said Thomas, who’s under contract through 2018 after signing a seven-year, $84 million extension in 2011. “It wasn’t until after the deadline that I realized that it was more serious than maybe just a rumor. At that point it was like, ‘Oh, interesting.’
“It’s a blessing having a Thursday game. It’s not like we were off hearing news about it. We were sitting in meetings and didn’t even think about the 4 o’clock trade deadline until it was over and until I talked to coach (Mike Pettine).”
Thomas conceded he has allowed himself to think about how his life would change if he were dealt to the Broncos to block for quarterback Peyton Manning.
“After the fact, you think about if it would have happened, what your reaction is,” said Thomas, who has never been to the playoffs and has been a part of just one winning season since the Browns drafted him third overall in 2007. “They’re an undefeated team, and Peyton’s a darn good quarterback. There’s worse places to be traded to, but obviously I’m very happy to still be here, to be battling with my teammates and working every day to get it turned around. It is a human business, and I have a lot of really close friends here, on the team and in the city.”
Thomas has said time and again he wants to be a member of the Browns when they reverse their fortunes.
“I feel like it can be really special when we turn this around in Cleveland,” he said. “Until I’m not here, that’s what I’m going to be working for. I certainly understand there comes a day when I’m going to get cut or traded. It happens to everybody. Playing in the NFL, it’s not a forever business.”
Has his desire to be part of a turnaround in Cleveland been lessened because he was nearly traded?
“I don’t really see that as affecting it,” Thomas said. “But I definitely think the older I get, the more that desire is there because you realize your career is closer to the end than the beginning and the amount of time that’s left to do that is shrunk. To me, I think the fire is burning hotter than ever, for me at least.”
Some people can’t understand why the Browns would even think about trading a player many believe will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. Others think it would make sense to exchange him for assets that could be used for building the team in the future.
Thomas’ teammates are just glad he stayed put.
“That’s this business, and if it went down, it went down,” right guard John Greco said. “We’re happy he’s here. I love playing with him.”