Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas plans to retire rather than returning for his 12th NFL season, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Wednesday afternoon, two hours before the start of free agency.
"Playing in the NFL has taken a toll on my body and I can no longer physically compete like I need to," Thomas said Wednesday in a statement.
Browns general manager John Dorsey did not travel to Norman, Okla., for the pro day workout of draft prospect Baker Mayfield because of the Thomas situation and official start of free agency. The Browns were involved in bidding for the top left tackle on the market, Nate Solder, but the Patriots free agent opted to sign a $62 million deal with the New York Giants.
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The team lauded Thomas with a simple message via Twitter regarding his retirement: "See you in Canton, Joe."
Thomas is expected to have opportunities in broadcasting as an NFL analyst.
Last season ended in October for Thomas after he suffered a torn triceps and was placed on injured reserve. Thomas said he was spending the usual amount of time at the team facility in Berea, Ohio, and actively met with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley among others in case he opted to return.
Thomas promised Dorsey he would know a decision entering free agency.
"I think the future is really bright,'' Thomas said Tuesday before his decision was made public. "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."
As insurance, the Browns agreed to deals with Donald Stephenson and Chris Hubbard, who are primarily left tackles.
Thomas injured his arm in the third quarter of the Browns' Oct. 22 game against the Tennessee Titans and missed nine games. When he left the field, it ended an 11-year streak in which he played 10,363 consecutive snaps.
The third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas said he immediately lost use of his left arm.
"He's a huge part of what we do, a huge part of this organization," head coach Hue Jackson said in October.
The Browns originally set a timetable of 6-9 months for Thomas' recovery.
He said last month that he was informed of likely medical clearance in early summer. But Thomas said his decision to play or not boils down to his health.
--Field Level Media