Tackle Joe Thomas could retire a Brown

When Joe Thomas was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2007, he said his primary goal was to make it to the Hall of Fame.

Thomas won't have to go very far to Canton, Ohio, once his playing days are over. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Thomas agreed to a seven-year, $84 million extension that could make Thomas a career Brown. He is also the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman.

In just four years, Thomas developed into one of Cleveland's few elite players. The 26-year-old was recently voted the NFL's best left tackle by ESPN.com. Thomas has been to four Pro Bowls in as many seasons and never missed a start.

More importantly, the Browns have their stud left tackle for the foreseeable future. Thomas plays one of the NFL's most difficult positions. Cleveland has had trouble finding a franchise quarterback. Maybe Colt McCoy is the answer. But whoever sits in that seat has a better chance to succeed with Thomas protecting the blind side.

Thomas was rewarded for remaining steady in an unsteady environment. I often joke with Thomas that he's had three head coaches in five seasons. An eternal optimist, Thomas just smiles and says he hopes the newest regime gets it right.

The Mike Holmgren-Tom Heckert-Pat Shurmur regime got this one right by extending Thomas. Cleveland could not afford to let him hit the open market in 2012. There would have been dozens of teams bidding for his services and anything could have happened.

Cleveland needs to retain its own core players. The Browns are trying to gradually build through the draft and didn't make a splash in free agency. But spending $84 million on one in-house transaction clearly displays Cleveland's approach.

Thomas has played at a very high level his entire career. His hope is that the team around him eventually does the same.