ESPN has offered up a number of trade scenarios heading into the draft, but their suggestions for the Indianapolis Colts show a lack of awareness.
The Colts absolutely need help on the offensive line. Specifically, they need help along the right side of the line. The Colts need to improve every position but left guard and left tackle.
Which makes a recent suggestion by ESPN’s Mike Sando all the more baffling. He suggest the Colts should make an offer to the Cleveland Browns for left tackle Joe Thomas. Here are his thoughts on the deal before we explain why it’s wrong:
"Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2016 second-round draft choice.The Browns are subtracting expensive older talent as part of a plan to rebuild their roster through the next few drafts. Thomas is the last man standing at this point. The Colts could use a cornerstone left tackle as they try to win now (no more lacerated kidneys for quarterback Andrew Luck, please).This deal would make the most sense from a timing standpoint once the first round of the draft passed. The Browns will know by then whether they can get a first-round choice in return for Thomas. The Colts will know by then whether they found an offensive lineman to their liking in the first round. There’s some thought Indy could be conservative in this draft after misfiring in the recent past. Could there be a second-round pick in the draft safer than Thomas, who has been a perennial All-Pro selection?"
This is such a bad, poorly thought out idea that I’m not even sure where to start.
Let’s go with Sando’s lack of research on the Colts roster. He basically goes with the “Luck’s been hit too many times, must improve offensive line all over” school of thought. This ignores the fact that Anthony Castonzo exists and is one of the better left tackles in the NFL.
Castonzo isn’t an All-Pro, but he’s still one of the better LTs in the league and only had a down year due to injuries. Sando doesn’t mention Castonzo at all in his analysis, so he clearly missed the fact that Castonzo just signed a four year deal worth nearly $44 million that keeps him in Indianapolis through 2019. Thomas has three years left on his deal, but the dollar amounts are about the same.
The difference between Castonzo and Thomas? Castonzo is 27 while Thomas is 31. The latter might play out this deal and then retire. Castonzo likely has another eight years in the NFL. Trading for a 31-year old player simply doesn’t make much sense, especially for a team that needs to get younger.
The Colts can’t afford both Castonzo and Thomas. They also can’t move either to right tackle because that isn’t how blockings schemes work. You can’t just move a player who’s spent their whole career in the NFL at one end of the line to the other side. Spending left tackle money for a right tackle also doesn’t make financial sense.
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If the Colts were going to trade for a lineman (or draft one) they are more likely to go after a center or right guard as the interior of the line has been much weaker than the edges.
The Colts aren’t desperate enough to make a blockbuster trade to improve the offensive line yet, especially not two weeks before the NFL Draft. Sando notes the timing of the trade, but getting a lineman in the first round isn’t so crucial for the the Colts. This is a deep draft for lineman and the Colts will be able to find a talented player in the second round or beyond.
Trading for Thomas would be a huge overreaction to a problem that is solvable with less drastic measures. If you want to project trades, make sure that the team actually needs the player who is being moved.