Poor Solomon Thomas. The guy has been getting all sorts of the negative since coming into the league when, in fact, he might be a late bloomer. It doesn’t help when he goes through a year from hell dealing with personal issues that were none his fault.
Thomas says he’s good to go. He’s mentally right, and that 2018 was his worst season of football, period. He better hope so. While we can understand the personal turmoil Thomas is going through, eyes are on the 49ers’ 2017 first-round pick. The 49ers have built the defensive line around him and DeForest Buckner, and they will be looking for results in Thomas’ third season.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano put together 10 players in the NFL who have make-it or break-it seasons, and Thomas made the list. This should come as no surprise. Thomas was taken third overall in 2017, and while he’s not a bust, he has not lived up to the expectations of a top-10 pick. While his 2018 season is something we can empathize with, the fact remains that he still has to produce.
Here’s what Graziano said about Thomas:
Why it’s a make-or-break year: Drafted one pick ahead of Fournette in the 2017 draft, Thomas has produced just four sacks in his first two seasons. A lot of that is of course understandable, especially due to the personal tragedy that befell Thomas and his family in 2018. But the NFL is a cold, results-based business, and the additions this offseason of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to a defensive front that already included former first-rounders DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead will put pressure on Thomas to make himself a part of the 49ers’ long-term plans.
How the 49ers could move on: Thomas is owed a guaranteed $4.3 million in 2020, so cutting him would cost a little bit. But at that price and at age 24, he could theoretically have some trade value next offseason if he’s squeezed out by all that front-seven talent the Niners have been amassing. They have until May to decide on his 2021 option.
Reports came out that the 49ers tried trading Thomas leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft, but that was ended just as quick as it began. As it is, we have Thomas on a defensive line consisting of DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, and Nick Bosa. If he can make any improvement, those three should help take some of the edge off.
That line is even more of a reason Thomas is on a make-it or break-it season. There’s going to be (hopefully) a lot more focus on the players around Thomas which should make him have an easier time penetrating offensive lines. Thomas’ run blocking hasn’t been awful; it’s been his pass-rushing.
That and playing out of position. The 49ers had Thomas rushing off the edge, which left many scratching their heads, this writer included. The plan now is to kick him inside on the money downs and have him on the edge on running downs. You know, the way he should be used.
Hopefully, all of these issues were the product of what he went through in 2018. After what he had to deal with, you can’t help but root for the guy. But as Gaziano said, the NFL is a result based business, and Thomas has to start turning in the numbers, or he might be on a different team in 2020.