Since around 11 months before the time of this writing, when the Kansas City Chiefs parted ways with the No. 31 overall pick to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens, a prevailing thought has always been there: the Chiefs would have Brown play out the 2021 season on the final year of his rookie contract before franchise tagging him for 2022.
Kansas City is prepared to franchise tag Orlando Brown, knowing he'll likely play out the final year of his rookie deal, per source. No way they give up this much capital for a one-and-done. Tag allows time for negotiation.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 23, 2021
Fast forward those 11 or so months and the franchise tag window is officially open — and though the Chiefs have yet to tag Brown, that is “likely,” according to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, in words he shared at the NFL’s Scouting Combine on Tuesday.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach on whether team will utilize the franchise tag on LT Orlando Brown Jr.:— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) March 1, 2022
"I’m sure that’s likely," Veach said. "We’re going to work hard to get a deal with him."
As passed along by friend-of-the-site Herbie Teope of The Kansas City Star, the ideal scenario for the Chiefs would be a long-term contract rather than a tag. The Chiefs like Brown, who may have started slow but adjusted well to Patrick Mahomes’ dropback passing as the year carried along, starting 16 of 17 regular-season games — and grading among Pro Football Focus’ top 25 tackles while allowing 6.0 sacks.
The 2022 cap number on a franchise tag for Brown would be in the area of $16.5 million — and a long-term deal, if the Chiefs and Brown’s representatives can find a comfortable area, would preferably save them some space in 2022 by spreading the bigger hits over later years.
“That’s the goal and that's the intent,” said Veach, before being transparent about the reality of getting something done. “Typically the larger the deals, the longer they take. We’ve been through that with Pat and with Chris (Jones) and what-have-you. So on one end, we’re going to work to see if we can get things executed as efficiently as possible, but we also know that it might take some time, and we feel confident though, that by the start of the season, we’ll be in a good place there.”
The deadline to tag a player is March 8, but players don’t necessarily have to sign their tag until the summer, so it can be used as a placeholder to buy Veach and Brown’s representatives more time to talk.
Still, all the signs have consistently pointed to Brown being OK with a year on the tag and the Chiefs have always been clear in saying they see him as their left tackle for 2022 and likely beyond.
Veach recounted how the Chiefs and his personnel team eventually decided Brown would be the answer for 2021.
“I know that it was reported that we certainly got involved a little with Trent Williams — that didn’t work out, and there were some other players before Orlando,” explained the general manager. “We didn’t feel like it was the right move, so we just stayed patient, and then when the Baltimore situation presented itself and went through all those factors again. It’s just case-by-case, and you just kind of go through the exercise and make the best decision that you think is for the organization.”
Looking back, Veach appreciated the way the offseason plan played out, as the Chiefs went from one of the worst offensive line situations in the league to one of the league’s best.
“Last year, we were in a unique situation where we had a 14-2 season and made it to the Super Bowl, and by the time we got there, we were kind of depleted,” he remembered. “We had a little bit of an older offensive line. We had one tackle retire (Mitch Schwartz) and one tackle have an injury (Eric Fisher), a season-ender, so looking at the way the draft flows and then picking 31, you don’t have a lot of options.
“We came out of the gate and we signed Joe Thuney and we were monitoring some of the tackles in their markets, and I thought we did a good job of being aggressive on one end but also being patient and letting a trade come to us. We’re certainly pleased with the way it worked out, and we were able to add more additional young linemen throughout the course of that offseason.”
Brown did the job protecting Mahomes’ blindside — and now securing his services in the long-term will be key for the Chiefs as they turn their attention to the other side of the trenches.