Cleveland Browns mainstay Joe Thomas has announced his retirement after an 11-year NFL career that will almost certainly earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle, played in every snap for the Browns from when he was drafted in 2007 until he suffered a triceps injury in October 2017.
That amounted to 10,363 snaps, a record the team plans to enshrine in its 2018 Ring of Honor.
"This was an extremely difficult decision, but the right one for me and my family," Thomas said. "Playing in the NFL has taken a toll on my body and I can no longer physically compete at the level I need to.
“From the moment I was drafted, the city embraced me in a way that I could never fully describe. I am proud to call Cleveland home.
"The loyalty and passion of the fans is unmatched and it was an honor to play in front of them from the past 11 years. I would like to thank all of the coaches, teammates, staff, fans and everyone who has shown me support throughout my career. Even though I will be hanging up my cleats, I will always be a Cleveland Brown.”
Though his career was marked by his excellence and endurance, he also was part of an era of unrivalled quarterback ineptitude. In his career, he protected a seemingly endless parade of starting QBs.
His decision to retire comes as a disappointment for Hue Jackson, who was hoping he would return for a 12th season.
"Joe means so much to me both personally and professionally," Jackson said. "Joe has been not just a tremendous Cleveland Brown, but one of the best to ever play in the National Football League. I appreciate everything he has done for this organization and not just on the field, his leadership and what he brought to the locker room, as a coach you couldn't ask for a better captain than Joe Thomas.
"He earned the respect of teammates and peers around the league for the way he worked. To play 10,363 consecutive snaps, what a tremendous accomplishment. I don't know if something like that will ever be matched again."
By retiring, Thomas will be forgoing a $3million bonus, which was offered to him by the Browns to lure him back after the season-ending triceps injury. It would have made him the second-highest paid tackle in the league ($13.5 million for 2018) behind Nate Solder, who just agreed with the Giants on a $15.5 million per year deal.
The Browns prepared for Thomas' departure, signing free agent tackles Donald Stephenson and Chris Hubbard during the offseason.