Patriots ‘Should Be in the Mix’ for Chiefs’ Top Free Agent in 2023

Bill Belichick, Andy Reid

Getty New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Kansas City Chiefs HC Andy Reid shake hands in 2019.

The Kansas City Chiefs are focused on their first playoff game of the year versus Trevor Lawrence the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the rest of the NFL community is already looking ahead at the 2023 offseason.

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger released an article urging each NFL franchise to pursue one available free agent this spring and he had the New England Patriots attempting to steal away polarizing Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — if KC allows him to hit the open market.

The football writer also named wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as the number one free agent that Kansas City must re-sign in the coming months. More on both below.

Orlando Brown Jr. Is a Candidate for the Franchise Tag Once Again

The Chiefs could attempt to sign Brown to an extension again this spring, but the two parties had very different opinions on how much money the blindside blocker was worth last year. In the end, general manager Brett Veach franchise tagged the offensive tackle, and Brown decided to bet on himself by playing on it.

After a rough start to the 2022 campaign, Brown did level out his game, performing well down the stretch.

“The Patriots rank top 10 in projected cap space in 2023, so they can afford to make a splash if they so choose,” reasoned Spielberger. “While the Chiefs’ Brown received some criticism early in the season after a lengthy franchise tag dispute, he finished the season on a tear and didn’t receive enough credit. From Week 7 on, his 81.6 overall grade ranked eighth and his 86.1 pass-blocking grade ranked seventh.”

Considering the disagreements between Brown’s camp and the Chiefs in 2022, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Veach faces a similar predicament this spring and summer. If that occurs, does Kansas City force the soon-to-be 27-year-old left tackle to suit up on another franchise tag?

Over the Cap projects that an offensive lineman franchise tag would cost $18.261 million in cap space in 2023, a hefty price to pay for a bookend that has not always performed. A team like the Patriots might be more willing to take that chance after a “rollercoaster” campaign at the position according to Spielberger.

“Odds are the Chiefs will find a way to iron out a long-term deal with Brown after trading away a first-round pick to acquire him,” the PFF writer concluded, “but if not, New England should be in the mix.”

KC could also attempt a tag-and-trade with Brown in an effort to recoup some value. PFF ranked him as the Chiefs’ top impending free agent this offseason, coming in at No. 10 overall for the rest of the league.

Chiefs Need to Re-Sign WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Chiefs Kingdom may be torn on Brown but one free agent everyone seems to agree on is Smith-Schuster, who Spielberger has KC re-signing.

He voiced: “Smith-Schuster signed an incentive-laden, one-year deal for 2022 that paid him close to nothing in base value but included a ton of upside that he took major advantage of down the stretch. The contract proved to be a big win for all parties once it was all said and done, with Smith-Schuster earning $1.5 million for his 78 receptions, another $1.5 million for his 933 receiving yards and another $1.5 million for playing more than 65% of offensive snaps.”

In other words, the ex-Pittsburgh Steelers wideout bet on himself and won — and so did quarterback Patrick Mahomes II and this Kansas City offense that decided to retool after moving on from Tyreek Hill.

“Despite entering his seventh NFL season in 2023, Smith-Schuster will still be just 26 years old for the majority of the year, and the Chiefs will likely lose fellow wide receiver Mecole Hardman to free agency,” Spielberger continued. “Second-round rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore didn’t progress throughout his rookie season quite as Kansas City hoped, so it would make sense to keep a reliable target over the middle in the fold, especially with tight end Travis Kelce getting up there in age.”

Chiefs analysts have already predicted what a Smith-Schuster extension might look like as we head into the home stretch of the 2022-23 league year.