The offseason is the time for dreaming. It’s not different for NFL beat writers.
Indianapolis Colts beat writer Nate Atkins of The Indianapolis Star proposed a couple different situations for the team’s offensive line this offseason. But he argued the “dream” scenario is to target offensive tackle Orlando Brown in free agency.
“The real dream would be using the money to help pay for Orlando Brown, a free agent four-time Pro Bowl left tackle who made his name in Roman’s system in Baltimore before winning a Super Bowl protecting Patrick Mahomes,” Atkins wrote. “The 26-year-old is headed for a monster pay day, in Kansas City or elsewhere.
Brown has made four straight Pro Bowls — two with the Baltimore Ravens and another two with the Kansas City Chiefs. He still only turns 27 years old in May.
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To say Brown will not come cheaply is an understatement. Spotrac projected his market value to be $112.1 million on a five-year contract, giving him an average annual salary of about $22.4 million.
To open up that much space, the Colts would have to release some players. Cutting quarterback Matt Ryan to save $17.2 million is practically a foregone conclusion. But the Colts could almost save another $8 million by releasing center Ryan Kelly.
Atkins argued it’s a move the team should at least consider. With the money saved cutting Ryan and Kelly, Brown becomes an option.
The Colts largely entered the 2022 season as favorites to win the AFC South. Their season crumbled for a lot of reasons, but early on, the biggest problem was the offensive line, particularly left tackle.
Indianapolis started just about every option they had for the quarterback’s blind side in 2022 and nothing worked. The Colts allowed 60 sacks, which was the second-most in the NFL.
Signing Brown would solidify left tackle for the Colts and help the team’s offensive line overall. The same thing happened for the Chiefs when they acquired Brown from the Ravens following their Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago.
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The player grades from Pro Football Focus have ranked Brown a Top 12 offensive tackle each of the last three years (among tackles who played at least 80% of his team’s offensive snaps). In 2022, PFF rated Brown eighth among tackles in that category.
It will be difficult to decline that kind of talent if the Colts have the salary cap space. But Atkins also wrote that it’s more probable that general manager Chris Ballard won’t want to give up on 2022 third-round pick Bernhard Raimann too soon.
“The likelihood is the Colts give Bernhard Raimann another shot and sign depth behind him, perhaps swing tackle Trey Pipkins, who played three years for Steichen and made 14 starts last season,” Atkins wrote. “It would set up as a prove-it year for Raimann in a better system, where either he’s a bargain of an answer or they’re drafting one early in 2024.”
Raimann, who was considered a project after going on Day 2 of the 2022 draft, started 11 games in his rookie season. Eight of those starts came under interim head coach Jeff Saturday during the second half of the campaign.
The rookie experienced a rough beginning to the season, but he steadily improved under Saturday. According to the PFF player grades, he was the second-best offensive linemen for the Colts last year.
At the very least, Raimann is a strong fall-back option. Brown, though, will likely remain the dream offseason addition for the Colts offensive line.