Browns still awaiting decision from star tackle Joe Thomas

CLEVELAND (AP) Browns star tackle Joe Thomas said his decision on whether to keep playing or retire is ”right around the corner.”

During an onstage interview Tuesday night at an awards show in downtown Cleveland, Thomas remained noncommittal when discussing his future – a decision that has kept the Browns in limbo. The 33-year-old and 10-time Pro Bowler has been mulling retirement since his 2017 season ended prematurely because of a torn left triceps.

”As far as a decision goes, we’re still kind of working through that process,” Thomas said while speaking to a crowd during the Cleveland Chapter of Positive Coaching Alliance’s inaugural Youth Sports Impact Awards Dinner. ”I’m keeping the Browns apprised of everything I’m doing and trying to make the best decision for myself and for the team, and when that decision comes, I’m not quite sure just yet, but I know hopefully it’ll be soon, right around the corner.”

Following the event, Thomas took photos with several groups of fans, but avoided media members waiting to speak with him.

Earlier, Thomas gave some mixed signals about his future.

He said his rehab, which could take as long as nine months, has gone well and that he mostly has full function in his arm.

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.

Thomas, who has never played in the postseason and just endured an 0-16 season, is excited about Cleveland’s additions.

”I think the future is really bright,” Thomas said. ”Obviously, John Dorsey came here for a reason because there was a ton of cap space, a ton of money that you can spend under the salary cap on new players, and obviously the draft picks that we have are pretty impressive, really unprecedented to have the first, the fourth (overall selections) and a couple early picks in the second round. So although the talent hasn’t been there for the team the last few years, the cupboards are not bare because of what we have coming down the pike in the next few years.

”For me as a player and for you guys as fans, it’s a great time to be a Cleveland Brown.”

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.

The team reached agreement Tuesday with tackle Chris Hubbard on a five-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Hubbard will sign his deal Wednesday, when teams are permitted to finalize contracts.

Hubbard primarily plays right tackle, but he gives the Browns more options in case Thomas retires.

The Browns also are expected to pursue New England’s Nate Solder, who has spent the past seven years protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. It’s possible that if Thomas returned, 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 running play against Tennessee on Oct. 22. The injury snapped his streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps, a remarkable run of durability.

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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