On Tuesday evening, we had a report that the Kansas City Chiefs and their franchise-tagged left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. are ‘nowhere close’ to making a long-term deal.
The two sides have until 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Friday to come to an agreement. So what happens if they don’t?
Brown could play for the Chiefs on the franchise tag
This is the most likely outcome. When Kansas City placed its non-exclusive franchise tag on Brown in March, they gave him a contract tender worth $16.7 million to play for the team in 2022. If the two sides don’t make a long-term deal before Friday’s deadline, Brown could immediately sign the tender, report to training camp and hope to turn in a stellar 2022 season, giving him another opportunity to sign a long-term deal with Kansas City (or another team) next season.
Brown could refuse to sign the franchise tag
While Brown is not required to sign his contract tender, most players do sign them after the July 15 deadline. The reason is simple: no matter what, the team retains its rights to the player for the coming season; as long as the tender offer remains unsigned, the player can’t sign a contract with another team until at least the following year. The player has until the Tuesday following Week 10’s games to sign the contract tender. If they don’t, they may not play for any team in that season — and no matter what happens, the team has the option to once again apply the franchise tag to them for the following year.
But as long as the franchise tender is unsigned, Brown is under no obligation to the team. He is not required to report to training camp — and therefore will not be subject to fines if he misses any of it. While it’s possible he could delay signing the tender in order to avoid some of the Chiefs’ training camp sessions, he’ll likely sign it before camp concludes; it’s in his best interest to go into the season prepared to play at a high level.
Many fans believe that if a player signs a franchise tender, they risk losing money if they are injured or released. This is not true. Under Article 10, Section 2(c) of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), contracts for franchise players are almost fully guaranteed.
If a player subject to a Franchise Player designation accepts the Required Tender, the resulting Player Contract shall be fully guaranteed if the player’s contract is terminated because of lack of comparative skill; as a result of an injury sustained in the performance of his services under his Player Contract; and/or due to a Club’s determination to create Room for Salary Cap purposes.
The team can, however, terminate a signed franchise tender if a player has not kept himself in proper physical condition to play — although the team must conclusively prove that this is the case.
For purposes of this Subsection only, any contract termination due to the failure of the player to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition will be subject to review of a neutral physician appointed by the parties, whose physical findings will be conclusive in any arbitration proceeding relating to the physical condition of the player at the time of the exam, provided that such exam takes place within twenty (20) days of the contract termination.
Just as they could with any other player who has a contract guaranteed for injury, the team could offer Brown an injury settlement if he is injured in 2022. This would give the Chiefs cap relief and make Brown a free agent. But here’s the key point: Brown would have to agree to take that settlement — which likely wouldn’t be in his best interest.
A new contract with another team
Since the Chiefs placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Brown, he’s been free to negotiate with other teams throughout this process. If another team offers him a contract, the Chiefs have five days to decide if they want to match that offer. If they do, Brown will be obligated to sign that same deal with Kansas City. If the Chiefs don’t match the offer, Brown may sign with the new team — but that team will then have to give Kansas City two first-round draft picks.
But it’s important to remember that with each passing day, this becomes more and more unlikely. This is because once Friday afternoon’s deadline passes, Brown can only sign his franchise tender with the Chiefs; the process for a new contract with another team would have to be completed before the deadline.
A trade with another team
Once Brown signs his franchise tender, it would be possible for the Chiefs to trade him to another team. (If this were to happen — like with the Dee Ford trade in 2019 — Brown’s new team would likely make the trade conditional on a long-term contract agreement with him). But at this point, a trade should be considered unlikely. Most trades of this nature happen long before this point of the offseason. (Ford’s trade happened on March 12). If there was another team interested in securing Brown for 2022, the deal likely would have been made long before now.
The bottom line
A report like we had on Tuesday doesn’t necessarily mean Brown and the Chiefs won’t reach a long-term deal; it wouldn’t be the first time that a few days before a deadline, negotiations between an NFL player and their team didn’t look promising. But even if the two sides don’t reach an agreement, there is still a very good chance that Brown will be Kansas City’s starting left tackle for Week 1 of the 2022 season.