Free Agent Stock Watch: Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.

He bet on himself to be a focal point of a team’s offensive line and he hopes to see that bet pay off this spring. Set to be a free agent after the 2021-22 season concludes, Orlando Brown Jr. has had an interesting journey through his rookie contract.

A unanimous All-American at Oklahoma, Brown was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Ravens. Despite being considered a first-round pick for much of his last year in college, a poor performance at the NFL Combine plummeted the young tackle’s stock. Brown quickly made sure that the football world knew he was not going to be defined by his combine performance and became widely considered one of the biggest steals of the draft. Six games into his rookie year, an injury to starting right tackle James Hurst thrust Brown into a starting role. Brown, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a single game since taking over.

Brown went to his first Pro Bowl in 2019 after his first full season as the Ravens’ starting right tackle. The next year an injury to newly extended left tackle Ronnie Stanley pushed Brown to the left side of the offensive line for the last 1o games of the season. Brown made his second Pro Bowl that year after playing most of the year at left tackle.

At that point Brown made it clear to the Ravens that he intended to be the best left tackle in the NFL. This put Baltimore in a difficult position as they had signed Stanley to a five-year extension worth $98.75 MM just prior to the 2020 season. Stanley, a First-Team All-Pro in 2019, had been drafted only two years prior to Brown and had established himself as the future blindside blocker in Baltimore. But Brown’s determination to play on the left side of the line stemmed from his late father’s wish that he not settle for any other position in the NFL, so Brown requested a trade to an organization that would allow him to live that dream.

The Ravens honored Brown’s request and traded him, along with a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, to the Chiefs for a first-, third-, and fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It was initially thought that Kansas City would extend the young stalwart tackle and lock down their future at the position, but the Chiefs held off, allowing Brown to play out the final year of his rookie contract.

Perhaps the Chiefs wanted to be sure that Brown could perform in a pass-happy system that differed greatly from the Ravens’ run-heavy offense. Brown’s play has not suffered as he continues to use his length well in pass-blocking and, while not dominant as a run-blocker, he rarely misses blocks in the run game.

It’s not expected that Kansas City would let their blindside blocker walk after only one year. Brown should expect a strong extension offer from the Chiefs. And while it may not be feasible to reach the yearly average value of contracts like Trent Williams ($23.01MM) or David Bakhtiari ($23 MM), the contracts of other young tackles like Laremy Tunsil ($22MM per year) and former teammate Stanley ($19.75MM) should serve as a good jumping off point to determine Brown’s worth.

A conversation will probably need to be had with quarterback and former MVP Patrick Mahomes as his cap hit is expected to jump from $7.43MM in 2021 to $35.79MM in 2022. If the Chiefs are not able to make a deal work, Brown will certainly become one of the top offseason priorities for any team interested in a franchise left tackle.

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