In 2021, at a time when the Chiefs desperately needed an upgrade to their offensive line, they traded for left tackle Orlando Brown, Jr. Now, they’re giving him the ability to sign with any other team as soon as next Wednesday.
It’s a calculated risk for the Chiefs, but it’s still a risk. After applying the franchise tag in 2022, they faced owing him $20 million if tagged a second time, with the next step being that he’d become a free agent in 2024. So they decided to stop the year-to-year dance now, save the $20 million in 2023 cash and cap space, and take their chances with Brown potentially hitting the open market.
Albert Breer of SI.com noted on Monday that the Chiefs want a long-term solution at the position, and that they’ll consider all options. That’s fine, but what options are there when it comes to finding a high-end left tackle? They rarely hit free agency. They never make it to the bottom of round one.
Maybe the Chiefs think they’ll find a way to get Brown to stay. To take less than he could get elsewhere in order to continue playing with Patrick Mahomes, who already has a deal that leaves him grossly underpaid.
But other teams may take particular glee in the ability to weaken the Chiefs. They may overpay just to get Brown away from Kansas City, and to force the Chiefs to start over at the position.
If Brown leaves, the Chiefs will have gotten two seasons from Brown. To get Brown, the Chiefs gave up a 2021 first-round pick (No. 31 overall), a 2021 third-round pick (94 overall), a 2022 fourth-round pick, and a 2022 fifth-round pick. The Chiefs also got a 2021 second-round pick (No. 58 overall) and a 2022 sixth-round pick from Baltimore.
It’s easy to have faith in coach Andy Reid and G.M. Brett Veach. They’ve earned it, over and over again. Their abilities will be tested if they proceed without their top left tackle — and it won’t nearly be as easy as replacing their top receiver a year ago.