Should the Denver Broncos re-visit a Joe Thomas trade?

Oct 9, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas (73) before the game against the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots won 33-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas (73) before the game against the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots won 33-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos were among the most active teams at the NFL’s trade deadline a year ago. Could they re-kindle talks for Browns OT Joe Thomas?

What are the Denver Broncos going to do about their offensive line?

John Elway made significant investments this offseason, kicking off free agency by signing Donald Stephenson away from the Chiefs, and eventually adding Russell Okung at the left tackle position. It was abundantly clear in the middle of the Broncos’ Super Bowl run last year that left tackle would be an area they would make a huge upgrade at, because Elway and the Broncos were in serious discussions with the Cleveland Browns to trade for All Pro Joe Thomas.

There haven’t been any concrete rumors to this point that the Broncos are going to re-engage the Browns in Thomas trade talks, but there are some significant connections in Denver for Thomas, and there is a clear need on the offensive line for his presence.

Russell Okung, who is making zero dollars and zero cents in guaranteed money this season, is essentially on a one-year deal with the Broncos that the team can opt to extend after the season, with terms already agreed to. That is a luxury most teams are not afforded, a young Pro Bowl tackle who is willing to bet on himself in that regard.

Okung’s contract after this year will average nearly $12 million in guaranteed money per season, and Joe Thomas’ deal will average about $10 million in guaranteed money per season.

Thomas, arguably the best tackle in the game, is currently making below-market offensive lineman money (not just tackle) and the price to get him in a trade may have gone down.

The Cleveland Browns are in ‘fire sale’ mode, apparently making anyone on the roster available in a trade except for breakout star receiver Terrelle Pryor. They are under different management than a year ago, but that hasn’t stopped them from wheeling and dealing over the course of the last 10 months.

They have already acquired extra 1st-, 2nd-, and 5th round picks in the up-coming 2017 NFL Draft. This team is building for the future, and accumulating draft picks to try and find some answers. They have not won a game yet this season, and there’s plenty of reason to believe Thomas is the player — at age 31 — that could net them another valuable piece of draft capital as they pursue relevance.

More from Predominantly Orange

So if the Broncos have Russell Okung already, why would they try and get Joe Thomas?

That’s a great question, and one that has an easy answer for me.

There’s no question in my mind that Joe Thomas or Russell Okung would give the Broncos an upgrade at the right tackle position. If Thomas is the better left tackle, put him there. If he can slide over to right tackle, even better. I look at it this way:

If you can have Joe Thomas and Russell Okung blocking for your young quarterback for the foreseeable future, would you not take it?

The Broncos don’t have anything solidified on the offensive line, obviously, so kicking Donald Stephenson inside shouldn’t be a big deal either. The thought here is that you invest in a guy like Joe Thomas so that nothing — nothing — comes around the edge to get to your quarterback. Stephenson could be an upgrade on the interior at either right or left guard.

This is a move that could be made for the Broncos to win from now on, which is key in all of this. Thomas isn’t a one-year rental like Vernon Davis was. The price to get Thomas would fit the long-term investment plan in protecting your quarterback.

You have little/no cap space invested at quarterback for the foresseable future. Your top offensive targets are locked up. Your top assets defensively are locked up. You have a huge wave of compensatory draft picks coming in for the 2017 class.

The Broncos have decisions to make, but if one of them is giving up a (late) first round pick for Joe Thomas, I don’t care what position he plays…

I would make that deal 10-out-of-10 times, and wouldn’t blink an eye.

They were serious about trading for him last year, but the price was too high. If the price has gone down and the Browns are selling, the Broncos should be looking to buy.