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Joe Thomas trade: Broncos offered Browns first round pick; Cleveland wanted more

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The Denver Broncos have indeed been trying to acquire the eight-time All Pro left tackle, even since Ryan Clady went down to injury.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL trade deadline fast approaching, the Denver Broncos are the busiest team in the league. A day after trading for versatile tight end Vernon Davis, they're believed to be engaged in trade talks for the Browns' Joe Thomas, as CBS reported Monday. A bombshell from ESPN Cleveland Tuesday adds validity to that report.

Thomas repeatedly has said he doesn't want to be traded to a contending team, that he wants to be a part of the "turnaround" of the Browns' franchise. Trading the popular, blue-collar Thomas would be a PR fiasco for the Browns. But he is the only player on the team who could bring a first-round draft pick in return.

According to a source, the Browns had talks with the Denver Broncos early in the season after Denver lost left tackle Ryan Clady to injury in the preseason. The Broncos were willing to part with their first-round pick in 2016, but the Browns also asked for second-year linebacker Shaq Barrett, and that apparently killed the deal.

As a shrewd commenter pointed out, the key phrase in that snip is "earlier in the season." There's no confirmed word whether Elway and the Broncos are actively engaged in trade talks, but it's almost impossible not to connect these dots. After reports that the Browns have Thomas on the trade block surfaced, and after Ty Sambrailo went down, you know Elway was calling up the Browns again.

Shaquil Barrett is a potentially special player, so there was no way the Broncos were going to give up a first-round pick and a young pass rusher with a ton of potential. Barrett for Thomas straight-up? Or Barrett plus a little bit of something (like a 5th round pick)? Maybe. Maybe. But this defense is so special you know Elway wants to keep it together for that title run.