The Browns may need Joe Thomas to make a decision.
With Thomas waffling between retiring and returning for another season, the Browns are exploring their options at left tackle, reportedly including a high-level, big-money contingency plan.
The Boston Globe, citing a source, reported Tuesday morning the Browns are making a “big run” at Patriots free agent Nate Solder.
Solder’s considered the best left tackle on the market. He was the No. 17 pick out of Colorado in 2011 and has started 95 of 98 games. He’s been at left tackle the last six years after playing right tackle as a rookie.
Solder, who will turn 30 on April 12, has won two Super Bowls with New England.
The Browns have competition for Solder, as the Texans are making a “serious run” to sign him, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The free agent negotiating period began Monday at noon, and deals are allowed to be finalized Wednesday at 4 p.m. when the league year begins.
Thomas, 33, has repeatedly said he’d inform the Browns of his decision before free agency but remained silent through Monday. Thomas said last week he was torn between ending his 11-year career, which featured 10 straight Pro Bowl appearances and 10,363 consecutive snaps, or rehabbing from a torn left triceps and playing the final year of his contract.
Thomas is due a $3 million roster bonus Sunday, which would appear to be the drop-dead date for a retirement decision. His 2018 salary would be an additional $10.3 million.
The Browns and general manager John Dorsey need to plan for life after Thomas even if he returns, but signing Solder to a deal worth $10 million-$14 million a year and shifting him to right tackle for a year seems unlikely.
If the Browns and Solder get serious about a deal, the pressure will be on Thomas, who has interviewed for television jobs over the last two months.