Joe Thomas’ Shoes At Left Tackle Could Be Filled By Rookie

The Cleveland Browns have spent quite a bit of resources over the course of the past two seasons in rebuilding their offense. There are only a couple of pieces still in place from a few seasons ago at this point, left guard Joel Bitonio and finally-unsuspended wide receiver Josh Gordon. Pretty much all the rest is new.

The quarterbacks are new—literally all of them. Baker Mayfied was the first-overall pick, Tyrod Taylor is expected to be a bridge starter after being acquired via trade, and Drew Stanton was brought in for his experience as a veteran backup. They traded away the other three quarterbacks.

Tight end is now David Njoku, a first-round pick a year ago. The primary ball carriers will be veteran free agent signing Carlos Hyde and rookie second-round pick Nick Chubb. They added Jarvis Landry at wide receiver in the offseason, and 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman will work in between him and Gordon.

The offensive line sans Bitonio has been built. J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler at center and right guard, respectively, were brought in last year. Chris Hubbard the former Pittsburgh Steelers reserve, takes over at right tackle.

The other spot? That’s a biggie. After Joe Thomas decided to retire, closing the book on an 11-year Hall of Fame career, Cleveland was left without an answer. They signed Donald Stephenson and have Shon Coleman, who took over after Thomas was injured last year.

And they just drafted Austin Corbett with the first pick in the second round, who might end up being the favorite to start at left tackle. Coincidentally, he would be lining up next to the player he took over for in college, that being Bitonio, should he earn the starting job.

Even Bitonio himself, who was a tackle in college, could be in the mix for the starting left tackle job, which is shaping up to possibly at least a four-man race between Corbett, Bitonio, Coleman, and Stephenson.

It’s ironic that the one position on offense that the Browns literally did not have to think twice about for over a decade is the one position that is now unsettled. Some might feel that Cleveland is finally on the verge of climbing out of the gutter (in spite of the fact that they have only won one game in the past two years), and yet their best player in their modern history won’t be there to see it.

Thomas actually talked last season about feeling as though the Browns were on the cusp of becoming a legitimately competitive team and said that he wanted to be there for that. Things obviously changed once he suffered the injury. He couldn’t wait around any longer, and had to make the best decision for himself, at least letting the team know by the start of free agency so they could make contingency plans.

Corbett is hoping to be that plan.

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