Earlier this week, the Kansas City Chiefs shared a few positive developments when general manager Brett Veach revealed that both starting offensive tackles, Eric Fisher (torn Achilles) and Mitchell Schwartz (back surgery), are expected to recover in time for training camp in August.
With 2020 opt-outs Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang also returning, Patrick Mahomes’ frontline should be much improved from the injury-plagued unit that was forced into action for last month’s Super Bowl LV loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even so, the AFC champions need to shed approximately $23 million of salary cap space this offseason and both Fisher and Schwartz have been mentioned as potential cap casualties to accomplish that.
Regardless, the Chiefs are already doing their homework on offensive linemen available in free agency and the NFL Draft, but a potential trade could also be in play if the right partner came along.
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Enter Orlando Brown Jr. & the Baltimore Ravens
This week, Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay put together five NFL trade ideas to prevent a Brady Super Bowl repeat. Headlining the list was a sizeable deal between the Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens that would upgrade Kansas City’s left tackle position.
According to Kay, that upgrade would come in the form of 6-foot-8, 345-pound Orlando Brown Jr., who has made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons (including in 2020) since Baltimore selected him in the third round in 2018.
Even more impressive last season was his transition from right tackle to left tackle in place of injured starter Ronnie Stanley. That’s where things get tricky for the Ravens now that Brown has expressed his unwillingness to revert back, even recently requesting a trade from the club should his ask not be granted.
While this does present an opportunity for a team like Kansas City to swoop in for the 24-year-old blindside protector, the issue will be the compensation required to acquire him, which Kay suggests might only require the Chiefs to give up their late first-round pick this April.
Here was some of the justification for the proposal deal:
The two-time Pro Bowler started his career on the right side of Baltimore’s offensive line, but he slid to the left to fill in for Ronnie Stanley after the 2019 All-Pro went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Brown played 11 games at left tackle in 2020 and excelled, conceding zero sacks or quarterback hits during his 700 snaps at the position, per Pro Football Focus.
The Chiefs won’t be on the clock until No. 31, but they could include Fisher in a trade package or send him elsewhere to acquire more picks to entice the Ravens. Either way, adding Brown would make them an even bigger favorite to get past the Bucs and lift the Lombardi Trophy again next February.
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Why Trading for Brown Is Unrealistic
There are a number of reasons why this hypothetical deal is, at the very least, a longshot. First, there are really only two realistic short-term options for the Chiefs when it comes to Fisher: release him for $12 million in cap savings or wait to see how his recovery progresses. The idea of using him as a trade piece is flawed if assuming another team views a 30-year-old injured tackle and 2022 unrestricted free agent as a significant bargaining chip.
Next, while Brown’s $3.6 million cap hit in 2021 is a bargain for a player of his talent and age, he is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Given his early track record, the Oklahoma product has set himself up for a pay day on par with some of the league’s premier tackles with base salaries in the $12-16 million range annually.
Brown has previously tweeted that, “It’s never been about the money,” but for the Chiefs, that day would inevitably come and would simply be kicking the money bag down the road as they again sort out their finances this offseason. Not to mention, Veach told reporters on Monday that the team is “anxious” to get Niang — viewed as one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft — back into the fold.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on February 25, Brown’s representatives have begun exploring their options and the Ravens are open to discussions, though it’s not their first choice.
Even if Baltimore doesn’t want to play hardball, they’ll still look to get fair compensation in return for one of the game’s rising stars on the offensive line. During an NFL Draft teleconference on Monday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper said the Ravens “should ask for a first-round pick and more,” per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun. However, this year’s draft crop is littered with first-round talents, likely eliminating suitors who will pick toward the top of Round 1 and want to avoid paying Brown next year.
Would the Chiefs’ No. 31 pick get the job done? Would they be willing to part with more draft capital, if not? Those answers remain to be seen, but for now, the safe money is on the team’s in-house options for 2021.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!