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Joe Thomas: "Future is Really Bright" If Browns Find Right QB in 2016 NFL Draft

Joe Thomas seems optimistic about the future under Hue Jackson and co.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With any staff change comes the important step of winning over the current players.

One of the team's most critical players has bought in.

Cleveland Browns' left tackle Joe Thomas spoke highly of new head coach Hue Jackson and the new regime on Thursday, speaking at the Home & Garden Show at the IX Center on the west side of Cleveland.

Thomas said he wants to be on board with Jackson, recently hired by the club. Thomas met Jackson at the Super Bowl, and enjoyed the meeting.

"Yeah, I'm in and super-excited about Hue,'' Thomas said. "I think he's going to do a great job."

But as Thomas knows, finding a quarterback is absolutely critical.

Surprisingly, Thomas sounded quite optimistic about the team's prospects of finding the franchise quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"I think we're in really good shape right now,'' Thomas said. "Obviously going into my 10th year I wish this was the position we were in my second or third year. We're probably going to draft a first-round quarterback, the best quarterback in the draft or the second best at worst.

"As long as you pick the right quarterback, if there is one out there, the future is really bright for the Cleveland Browns 'cause it doesn't really matter what you do with the rest of the team if don't have a quarterback. I mean it's great to hire a new coach and bring in free agents and stuff, but unless you solve the quarterback piece of the puzzle, you'll be finding a new coach every two years.''

Thomas also had plenty of kind words about Josh McCown, calling him a "good player when he's starting and healthy." The veteran signalcaller will return for a second season with the Browns, who will ask him to mentor the new quarterback.

"[McCown is] a tremendous mentor. You're not going to find a better mentor as a quarterback in the NFL, and he's better than you could do as a quarterback coach because he's actually on the field showing the kid how to do it," Thomas said. "So you've got hopefully the future of the franchise getting drafted in the first round and then you've got Josh mentoring him and coaching him along the way. I can't see a better situation that the Browns could possibly be in than that.''

Also important in ushering in a new quarterback is having a strong offensive line.

Thomas hopes the Browns will keep center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, both of whom have the option to leave in the offseason.

"I understand from their perspective, from a business standpoint, they need to move on if they get a better offer somewhere else," Thomas said. "I certainly would understand it, but I definitely hope that they’re back. I don’t know what the Browns’ perspective is on it. I feel like we have a lot of salary-cap space to spend on it.

"I’m not in the salary-cap meetings, but I’d certainly like to keep them," he continued. "I think we have the best right tackle and the best center in the NFL, and I’d certainly like to keep those guys. You’re not going to make your team better by getting a worse player at those positions. That’s my take. But there are decisions that are made in football that are related to contracts that are unrelated to how good you are as a player or a person, so I can understand if things go differently, but I’d like them to be here obviously."

Speaking of tough football decisions, the Browns have previously discussed trading Thomas.

According to Thomas, the team has told him he won't be dealt. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown also told the team isn't considering trading Thomas when the league year begins on March 9.

But as Thomas knows, business is business.

"Players are commodities and if they feel like they've got a good value or a good opportunity to make the team better, they should get fired if they don't make that decision," Thomas said. "That's your job when you're in control of a football team is do everything they can to make the team better, whether that's trade your 10-year guy or sign a guy that nobody's ever heard of but you know he's going to make the team better. Those are the decisions that you have to make and sometimes those are tough decisions. It's a business. That's the way it goes, so it's great that they like me. I like them. I'd certainly like to be here, but those are decisions that are certainly out of my hands.''

As Thomas admitted, his fate lies solely in the hands of the new Browns' front office. Will the club keep him?

Either way, Thomas seems to be all in with the new regime.

For all of Thomas's thoughts, including his thoughts on the fall of Johnny Manziel, read the or Akron Beacon-Journal pieces on Thomas' thoughts.