On Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs made their second big move of the offseason, hitting left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. with the non-exclusive franchise tag, the same designation used in the first two tags of the Brett Veach era (pass rusher Dee Ford and defensive tackle Chris Jones).
Brown will be designated with the non-exclusive franchise tag, which means that he is free to negotiate with other teams. If another team makes Brown an offer, Kansas City has the right to match that offer to retain him. If the Chiefs choose not to match it, Brown may be signed by the other team — but it will have to give Kansas City two of its first-round draft picks in compensation.
So what happens now?
As detailed by NFL.com’s Michael Baca after NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo’s conversation with Jammal Brown, a mentor to the 25-year-old Brown Jr., probably nothing — at least any time soon.
“He’s slow playing it because what’s most important to him right now is supporting Pat (Patrick Mahomes) through his wedding, handling his charity event at the end of March and then getting into the best shape of his life,” Jammal told Garafolo. “He wants to be in Kansas City and wants to sign a long-term deal there. He wants Kansas City to understand he’s the type of player who can be there for the rest of his career. He’s a cornerstone left tackle. Orlando has bet on himself and he’s had to face adversity.
“The first few games of the season last year, he didn’t play well and he felt like he was letting (Chiefs GM) Brett Veach down because Veach took a chance on him and traded away a lot for him. We had a talk and I told him you can’t measure heart without adversity. From that point on, he played lights out. That’s the kind of left tackle the Chiefs have in Orlando, a guy willing to battle through the adversity.”
As revealed in the article, Brown is unsure if he plans to hire an agent or represent himself in negotiations. The Chiefs’ left tackle will have to figure that part out before he signs the tag — or, as Kansas City hopes, comes to an agreement on a long-term extension. In the event of Brown signing and playing on the tag, he will make around $16.7 million for 2022 — which will be on the Chiefs’ books against the salary cap.
With the Chiefs seeing Brown Jr. as their left tackle both in the present and the future, the ideal scenario would be a long-term extension, which would presumably lower the cap number for this season. On Monday, the NFL set its salary cap at $208.2 million for 2022. That number is set to balloon for 2023 as the pandemic (hopefully) is placed in the rearview mirror, and NFL agrees to new, more lucrative television deals. Thus, kicking the bigger Brown cap hits down the road would make for a better plan for the Chiefs.
With all that in mind, Brown’s tag will serve as a placeholder for now. The deadline for a long-term deal is July 15. Brown could wait until 31-year-old free agent left tackle Terron Armstead signs his contract — which given his goals, might make sense.
“He wants to be a Super Bowl champ, a Pro Bowler, an All-Pro, a team captain, the highest-paid at his position and most importantly, the Walter Payton Man of the Year,” Jammal Brown said.
Many rightly feel Armstead is the best available left tackle on the market, but Brown has proven to be more durable in recent seasons — and he is six years younger. Brown has started 16 games the last three seasons and has gone to three straight Pro Bowls.
“We’re going to work hard to get a deal done with him,” said general manager Brett Veach of Brown during his press appearance at the NFL’s Scouting Combine. “Typically, the larger the deals the longer they take. We’ve been through that with Patrick (Mahomes) and Chris (Jones) and what have you. 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 by the start of the season we’ll be in a good place there.”
That is probably the grand takeaway from the tag placed on Brown Monday — it’s just the first small step in what sounds like will be a lengthy process. The last time the Chiefs tagged a player before a long-term deal was Jones, and that did not come through until mid-July.
Working with that timeline, we may not have an official answer on Brown for a little more than four months. However, as they navigate the cap, the Chiefs would likely prefer something sooner rather than later.