Browns await word on Joe Thomas' future amid reports of interest in Nate Solder

Signing Nate Solder would lessen the sting for the Browns if Joe Thomas decides to retire. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots' top free-agent priority was to retain left tackle Nate Solder.

The Cleveland Browns are still awaiting word from left tackle Joe Thomas on whether he will play in 2018 or retire.
 On Tuesday morning, reports were churning that the Browns were making an aggressive offer to bring Solder to Cleveland.

This would seem to indicate that Thomas would be retiring. Except the Browns don’t have a decision from Thomas, and don’t expect to get one on Tuesday. Which means that if their aggressive approach works with Solder they’d be adding a player at a position where a team legend may return. Pursuing a left tackle when they have a Hall of Fame left tackle seems quirky. If the Browns knew Thomas was retiring, it would make perfect sense, but if they’re not sure, it’s quirky.

If Solder could slide over to right tackle, a spot where he started 11 games in 2011, the move to add him would be a logical one. Let him handle the right side for a year, then he would become Thomas’ replacement in 2019. With Thomas set to earn $13.5 million in salary and bonus this season, and with Solder expected to command $12 million to $13 million per season, having both would be an expensive season at two positions. But it would strengthen the offensive line, and the Browns have the cap room and flexibility for this one year to make that happen.

Cleveland.com reported that the Browns would only sign Solder if Thomas retires, which puts things into perspective. But the team does not know Thomas’ decision, and if they wait for Thomas they risk losing the best tackle on the free-agent market.

It’s tough to say where the Browns are on this potential signing, and the easy conclusion to draw is that the Browns wouldn’t make this run at Solder if they were not reasonably certain Thomas is retiring. They really have nobody on the roster who can play left tackle, so they have to do something.

But the Browns don’t yet know what Thomas is going to do, and the team is giving Thomas all the time and space to make his best decision.

In other news, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Bears will sign Jaguars free-agent receiver Allen Robinson, which takes one attractive player off the market for the Browns and which seems to make Terrelle Pryor the Browns' top target.

Also, receiver Sammy Watkins will sign with Kansas City for a reported $16 million per season. The ripple effect? The Browns have Jarvis Landry under contract for just less than $16 million, and Watkins’ deal may become the starting point for Landry if the Browns try to sign him to an extension.