If Joe Thomas ran the Cleveland Browns, who have the first and fourth picks in this year’s NFL draft, the 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle wouldn’t bother attempting to determine which of the quarterbacks in this year’s class has the best chance to be an NFL star. Instead, he would go out and sign the projected best free agent on the market and use the team’s top two picks to address other needs. (After an 0-16 season, Cleveland has a lot of them.)
“If I was the GM, what I would do — we have $118 million in cap space, so we got plenty of money to do whatever we want — but I would actually sign Kirk Cousins and then I would use the first and fourth pick on the best players available,” Thomas said Wednesday on ESPN Radio’s “Golic & Wingo” show. “Probably [Penn State running back] Saquon Barkley and one of the defensive players. I’m not exactly sure where they go, where they rank all the quarterbacks, but for me, I would rather sign Kirk Cousins because we have the money. Then you don’t have to use a draft pick to trade for a guy like Alex Smith, who is one of the other names that’s out there. … For me, I think you sign Kirk Cousins and then you draft Saquon Barkley and the best defensive player available. All of a sudden you’re a heck of a lot better immediately overnight.”
Since the Browns made him the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft out of Wisconsin, Thomas has protected the blind side for 20 different quarterbacks in Cleveland. Cousins, who has played the last two seasons under the franchise tag in Washington, would be an upgrade over all of them. It’s unclear whether the Redskins will slap the franchise tag on Cousins yet again, but there’s a good chance the quarterback will be a free agent come March.
Thomas also mentioned the possibility of signing Cousins in a guest column for Sports Illustrated’s MMQB in which he defended the Browns’ decision to retain Coach Hue Jackson, who is 1-31 over the past two years.
“We have more than $100 million in cap space; we could sign three Kirk Cousins if we wanted to,” Thomas wrote. “We could legitimately add three Hall of Fame players in free agency if they’re out there.”
Of course, what the Browns do in free agency and with their draft picks isn’t up to Thomas, but rather new General Manager John Dorsey. At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this week, Dorsey suggested that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield are among the names the Browns are considering with the No. 1 pick.
“In 2013, I had the first pick in the draft with the Kansas City Chiefs, and there really wasn’t a quarterback prospect there,” said Dorsey, who traded for Alex Smith shortly after becoming the Chiefs’ GM in 2013 and used the No. 1 pick on Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. “Actually in this class there are four to five prospects that make you think, at least, are they worthy of that position? So now I think what you do is you let the process unfold.’”
When asked whether it’s safe to assume that the Browns will keep the No. 1 pick and use it to draft a quarterback, Dorsey replied, “It’s safe to say you never know.”
If Cousins does become a free agent, he will have no shortage of suitors. Earlier this month, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall appeared on NFL Network and was asked how he expects General Manager John Elway plans to address Denver’s quarterback situation this offseason.
“In my opinion, we’ve already drafted a quarterback [in the] first round a couple years ago,” Marshall said. “We’ve tried that. I think he’s going to go get a free agent quarterback. I think he’s going to go spend some money and fix the position, because it’s kind of a toss-up with these rookie quarterbacks.”
“Anybody you want?” host Andrew Siciliano asked.
“Uhhh, I mean, it’s a couple guys out there, you know” Marshall said with a smile. “We played against a guy in Week 16 that was pretty good. There’s a couple guys out there.”
Cousins shredded the Broncos’ defense for 299 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16.
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