Browns add OT Hubbard
CLEVELAND (AP) — As they wait for Joe Thomas’ decision, the Cleveland Browns added some offensive line depth.
The team reached agreement on Tuesday with former Pittsburgh tackle Chris Hubbard on a five-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. Hubbard, who spent the past four seasons with the Steelers, will sign with the Browns once the free agency signing period begins Wednesday, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not permitted to finalize deals during the NFL’s “legal tampering” period.
Terms of the deal were not immediately known.
In Cleveland, the 26-year-old Hubbard will be reunited with former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was hired by the Browns during the offseason.
Hubbard made 14 starts the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder is primarily a right tackle, but he gives Cleveland flexibility up front and more options in case Thomas retires. A 10-time Pro Bowler, Thomas, who suffered a season-ending torn triceps in 2017, has not yet announced if he’ll be back next season or end his Hall of Fame career.
Hubbard was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent from Alabama-Birmingham in 2013. He started four games in 2016 and 10 in 2017.
Shon Coleman, a third-round draft pick in 2016, started all 16 for Cleveland last season. If Thomas retires, it’s possible the Browns could switch Coleman to the left side or perhaps sign another free agent.
New Browns general manager John Dorsey has been active in recent days overhauling the team’s roster. Dorsey reached agreement on four trades and he figures to be just as busy in free agency. The Browns were $113 million under the salary cap before their recent flurry of transactions.
Out of respect, the Browns are giving Thomas all the time and space he needs to make his decision. But as they wait to hear from him, the club has been examining the free agent market to potentially find his replacement.
Thomas is set to earn a $3 million roster bonus on Sunday, which does give him some more time to make a decision. He’ll make an additional $10.3 million in salary next season.
Even if Thomas decides to come back for an 11th season, the Browns need to address his position either by signing a veteran or in the upcoming draft. Cleveland still has nine picks, including five in the first two rounds.
Another possibility in free agency for Cleveland is New England’s Nate Solder, who has spent the past seven years protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. It’s possible that if Thomas came back, Solder could switch to the right side for a season.