After Russell Okung chose to play in Denver the Detroit Lions were left with few other options in free agency to upgrade their offensive tackle position. One of the few remaining rumored options was trading the Cleveland Browns for All-Pro Joe Thomas. However, Browns coach Hue Jackson unequivocally closed that door at the annual meeting in Florida on Tuesday:
Sorry, Lions fans. Joe Thomas won't be traded, per Browns coach Hue Jackson.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) March 22, 2016
Jackson was direct and clear with his declaration. "Everyone wants to know if we're trading him, Joe's not going anywhere," Jackson said.
With that option clearly gone, expect rumors to ramp up for Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady. Denver is severely cap-strapped at the moment, to the point where it's unsure whether they'll have enough to sign their 2016 draft picks. The easiest way to remedy that situation is to move Clady, who has become expendable with the acquisition of Okung and would immediately free up $8.9 million worth of cap space for the Broncos.
For the Lions, that would mean giving up some unspecified amount for Clady and taking on the remaining two years of his contract that have a base salary of $9.5 and $10 million respectively (with negligible dead cap). Clady comes with a significant risk -- having missed 14 games in 2013 and the entire 2015 season due to injury -- but his all-pro talent is undeniable. Clady has been to the Pro Bowl four times in his career and notched two first-team All-Pro selections.
When asked about Clady's future with the Broncos, head coach Gary Kubiak was much less definitive about his offensive tackle. "So our plans are to put Ryan back to work, and obviously, we've gotten better up front with some of our additions. So we'll see. But the biggest thing for Ryan was getting healthy, getting back and getting ready to go," Kubiak said.
But Detroit has to worry about getting in a bidding war for Clady. According to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, four or five teams are in the running for Clady. With that sort of competition, the Lions may be wise to pass on the risky tackle. After all there are several popular offensive tackle options in the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Lions have been through this before. With Jeff Backus penciled in at left tackle, it seemed like every offseason there was talk about upgrading the position. Don't be surprised if you see the Lions take a similar route with Riley Reiff. Reiff may not be outstanding, but he has been around average for his entire career. With upgrade options running low, Reiff may stick around on the left side, at least for one more season.