First, it shows the organization's commitment to winning long-term. Making Thomas one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the league is a clear indication that the front office is serious about building a winner.
The teams that have enjoyed consistent success over the past 10 seasons share a common trait, they build through the draft and retain their players. These teams typically avoid high-price free agents, instead rewarding their own players with contract extensions. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots are shining examples of this.
Although New England has been known to take chances on troubled players (ex. Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth), the Patriots have been able to build a perennial contender by collecting draft picks and using those picks wisely.
The Browns appear to be following this same philosophy. In April's draft, the team traded down from the sixth overall pick, collecting a slew of draft picks from the Atlanta Falcons in the process. After the NFL lockout was lifted, the Browns did not make any headline deals. They instead opted to sign bargain free agents.
While many fans were hoping that the team would pursue one of the premier pass-rushers in free agency, the Browns stayed true to their commitment of building through the draft.
Few will argue that Thomas is one of the best, if not the best, LT in the league at the moment. Even fewer will argue that Thomas has been the best player drafted by the Browns organization since it returned in 1999. It is reassuring that with this contract extension will keep him in Cleveland for many years.
This is a team headed in the right direction, and with LT Joe Thomas now signed long-term, the future continues to look bright in Cleveland.