BEREA — Life without Joe Thomas at left tackle began Thursday with Thomas in the building helping a possible successor get ready to take his place.
“I was walking around the building and I looked out at the indoor facility, and I saw Joe Thomas and Shon Coleman together,” general manager John Dorsey said. “They were working on stuff already. You can just see that Shon is committed and he is looking forward to the challenge. That is all you could ask for.”
Coleman, who started at right tackle last year, will get a chance at left tackle following Thomas’ announcement Wednesday he’s retiring after 11 seasons because his body can’t handle another. Chris Hubbard was signed as a free agent from Pittsburgh to play right tackle.
Free agent pickups Donald Stephenson and Spencer Drango, who filled in after Thomas tore a triceps last year, are also options at left tackle. And the team could draft one in the early rounds.
Jackson’s known for a while Thomas was likely to retire but still isn’t ready to accept it.
“We were still holding out hope that Joe would not go and that he would stay. I still hold out hope,” Jackson said. “He has made it very clear that he is not going to play.
“I am going to miss Joe, but as I told him again today, I am going to always reiterate to him, this is still his football team. He still has a (key) fob that gets in the door. His locker will stay the same. It will be in the same place. His place on the plane will be the same if he wants to go. That is how much I think of Joe Thomas. He will be missed.”
Dorsey and Jackson said they’d find a way to get the best five linemen on the field, but Jackson isn’t pretending it will be the same as having a 10-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer as the anchor.
“We are going to play somebody at left tackle, and we are going to give some guys opportunities to do it, but I hope nobody in here thinks the next Joe Thomas is fixing to go play over there this season,” he said. “There is an opportunity to still be a good offensive line, but we are not going to be the same line without Joe Thomas. There is no question about that.”
The city of Cleveland announced July 3 would be Joe Thomas day — 7/3 for his No. 73. Hubbard and new quarterback Tyrod Taylor lamented missing their chance to play with an all-time great.
“Of course, I want him out there, but ultimately you respect his decision,” Taylor said. “A great player, a great person who means a lot to Cleveland and means a lot to the NFL.”
Running back Carlos Hyde, an Ohio State alum, was glad to be closer to home after signing a three-year deal reportedly worth $15 million. His family has been in Cincinnati while he spent the first four years of his career in San Francisco.
The Browns are excited to have a power back.
“He is built to play the Cleveland Browns’ style of running game,” Dorsey said.
“Oh, boy, he likes to carry that ball,” Jackson said. “That guy is a violent runner. He goes downhill, then he bounces off of people and he keeps on going.”
Hyde described his style as “old school, downhill, violent” and said he was told he was brought in to be handed “the rock.”
“‘Let you get downhill and let you play our style of football,’” he said.
Change of plans
The Browns cut 30-year-old cornerback Jason McCourty — until they traded him.
The team announced the release and Dorsey said he wanted to give McCourty a chance to sign elsewhere because he wasn’t sure he’d make the roster. But before the transaction was official, the Browns sent McCourty and a seventh-round draft pick to the Patriots in exchange for a sixth-rounder. They moved up from No. 219 to No. 205.
McCourty will be reunited with twin Devin, a safety for the Patriots.
“Cleveland it’s been real!” he tweeted. “I wish nothing but the best to the guys in that locker room! Thank you to the Haslam’s and the organization for giving me the opportunity to lead and do what I love last season! #DawgPound (J-Mac)”
TJ Carrie, signed as a free agent from Oakland, will take McCourty’s starting job.
Damarious Randall didn’t need to be talked into going back to safety. After three years at cornerback with the Packers, he’ll play free safety for the Browns after being acquired in a trade for quarterback DeShone Kizer.
“Great, great move. I love it,” Randall said. “That is where I wanted to play since I came into the league and I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Assistant general manager Eliot Wolf and vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith were in Green Bay’s front office when he was drafted No. 30 out of Arizona State in 2015. Dorsey listened to their recommendations and his own scouting report.
“He has natural feet. He has really excellent athletic skill sets,” Dorsey said.
- Receiver Sammie Coates was cut after one forgettable season. He was acquired from Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick before the season and caught six passes for 70 yards.
Offensive lineman Zach Banner was also cut.
- Jackson hasn’t given up on Kizer despite the trade.
“It was an organizational decision. We know we needed to improve in the secondary,” he said. “I still think DeShone is going to have a tremendous career in the National Football League.”
- Randall had dinner Wednesday night with receiver Josh Gordon, moving past their Twitter fight at the end of last season.
“We just had a great, great dinner. We are looking forward to being great teammates and just winning a lot of games,” Randall said. “It was just two athletes competing, and we just got into a heated battle. We are teammates now.”
- The Dolphins placed the franchise tag on receiver Jarvis Landry, guaranteeing him $16 million in 2018. Dorsey doesn’t like to talk about contacts and wouldn’t say whether he hopes to work out an extension.
“I see long-term success for him in this organization,” he said. “That is what I look forward to.”