MOBILE, ALA.: The Browns had high expectations for Joe Thomas when they drafted him third overall in 2007, but the left tackle from the University of Wisconsin still managed to shatter all of them.

With Thomas, 33, deciding whether he’ll attempt a comeback or retire this offseason, the man who picked him 11 years ago reflected on the future Hall of Famer’s career this week at the Senior Bowl.

“Joe was a thousand times more than what we could have even have imagined,” said Phil Savage, general manger of the Browns from 2005-08 who’s now the executive director of the Senior Bowl. “We thought he would be a really good player. We had no idea he’d play 10,000 snaps and never miss a down and then go to Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl.

“He’s had just a remarkable career. I think there is so much respect and admiration for him out there because it has been a difficult time for the Browns. They haven’t won a lot of games, and yet he’s been able to stay focused and keep his level at just the utmost of perfection almost.”

Thomas’ legendary consecutive snap streak ended at 10,363 when his left triceps tendon ruptured Oct. 22 against the Tennessee Titans. He missed the final nine games of the 2017 season. He has one season left on his contract with the Browns, and they hope he returns.

But Thomas said last week at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards he hasn’t made a decision one way or the other. He knows the Browns want an answer before free agency begins March 14, and he’s told them he’ll give them as much time as he can.

“Joe Thomas is a heck of a man, a heck of a football player,” new Browns GM John Dorsey said at the Senior Bowl. “I think Joe Thomas is a Hall of Famer for what he’s done.

“I’ve had nice discussions with Joe, and part of being a general manager, we’re also planning for the future if [his retirement] were to happen. You always think about that. But you also hope that, you know what, Joe Thomas, he’s a great football player, and I can’t wait to be around him some more.”

Not only is Thomas a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, but he’s also the face of the franchise and a Cleveland icon.

“I’m very proud of him and the career that he had and just the fact that he embraced Cleveland,” Savage said. “It’s been tough over the years to attract players to Cleveland. Of course, in the draft, they don’t have a choice. But when he got there, he embraced that community, wanted to be a part of it.

“We thought he would be a good fit because he was obviously a Midwesterner and it wouldn’t be that far from home and that sort of thing. All of that couldn’t have gone any better, I think, in terms of somebody that really identified with the tough, blue-collar nature of Cleveland and what he represented on and off the field.”

Thomas showed the world his down-to-earth personality when he went fishing with his father instead of attending the 2007 NFL Draft. Savage will never forget it.

“From the moment we picked him, I said, ‘My goodness gracious, just don’t let him fall overboard on that fishing trip with his dad,’ ” Savage said with a laugh. “That would be the Browns’ luck. This guy drowns, ends up at the bottom of a lake as the third pick in the draft.”

Draft prospects either sink or swim once they reach the NFL. Thomas swam like Michael Phelps.

“He never took for granted the position that he had as a high draft pick and then someone who was looked at as a leader of the team,” Savage said. “He’s in a very difficult circumstance. When you don’t win very much, it’s hard to keep going out there, and he did it year after year.”

Encouraging start

Dorsey is thrilled with the player personnel department he has assembled by hiring former Green Bay Packers executives Eliot Wolf (assistant GM) and Alonzo Highsmith (vice president of player personnel) and former Kansas City Chiefs scouts Jimmy Noel (director of pro scouting), Matt Donahoe (scout) and Dan Zegers (personnel coordinator).

“It’s very rare you get a chance to add this caliber, these types of men to an organization in January like this,” said Dorsey, a longtime Packers executive and former GM of the Chiefs. “I think what they bring here is expertise. They understand the system that we’re about to use here. So you can’t have enough of those types of guys.”

Dorsey also praised VP of player personnel Andrew Berry, a notable holdover from the previous front office. Dorsey said Berry has been instrumental as the player personnel staff has prepared for free agency.

“We’ve had really good discussions in terms of unrestricted free agency, I’d say for 10 or 12 days,” Dorsey said. “I can’t thank the pro personnel staff enough, and also be lucky to have Andrew Berry. Andrew sits in those meetings, too, and just to hear his discussions, I think the world of Andrew.”

Highly touted

When quarterback prospects think about the Browns possibly drafting them, they probably ponder the franchise’s years of futility and record of 0-16 last season.

But when they look at the roster, wide receiver Josh Gordon must stand out.

At least Wyoming’s Josh Allen thinks so.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s a monster,” Allen said. “I’ve never seen him in person, but I’ve heard actually seeing him in person just kind of blows your mind to see how big [he is] and [how] fast the dude can actually move.”

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.