By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Joe Thomas is keeping the Browns in limbo.
Cleveland’s star left offensive tackle has not yet informed the team on his future plans, and the uncertainty is influencing the Browns’ plans in NFL free agency.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Browns still had not heard from the 10-time Pro Bowler, who has been mulling retirement ever since his 2017 season ended when he tore his left triceps.
The 33-year-old Thomas has said several times that he planned to give the Browns a decision before the start of free agency, which began on Monday with the “legal tampering” period and picks up steam when teams can begin signing players at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
New Browns general manager John Dorsey has been active in recent days overhauling the team’s roster. Dorsey reached agreement on four trades and he figures to be just as busy in free agency. The Browns were $113 million under the salary cap before their recent flurry of transactions.
Out of respect, the Browns are giving Thomas all the time and space he needs to make his decision. But as they wait to hear from him, the club has been examining the free agent market to potentially find his replacement.
Even if Thomas decides to come back for an 11th season, the Browns need to address his position either by signing a veteran or in the upcoming draft. Cleveland still has nine picks, including five in the first two rounds.
One possibility in free agency for Cleveland is New England’s Nate Solder, who has spent the past seven years protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. It’s possible that if Thomas came back, Solder could switch to the right side for a season.
Only one of five players in history selected to the Pro Bowl in his first 10 seasons, Thomas had never missed a snap in his career before he got hurt while blocking on a routine running play against Tennessee on Oct. 22. The injury snapped his streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps, a remarkable run of durability and dependency.
Thomas is sent to earn a $3 million roster bonus on Sunday, which does give him some more time to make a decision. He’ll make an additional $10.3 million in salary next season.
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(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)