Last week, the July 15 deadline for the Kansas City Chiefs to sign left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. came and went without the club locking him up to a long-term contract. There was an argument to be made that both sides did their job properly — that the Chiefs had a point to offer Brown what they did, and he had a point in refusing to accept it.
With negotiations curbed until the 2023 offseason, the conversation has naturally shifted to when Brown would show up to sign the one-year franchise tag and get to work at training camp in St. Joseph. Reports have suggested that Brown may sit out of at least some of the practices, which begin for Chiefs veterans on Wednesday.
As he spoke to the media in St. Joseph on Friday, head coach Andy Reid did not have an answer about when Brown might arrive.
“I don’t know that, so I don’t know whether he’s going to be here or not,” said Reid, plainly. “If he’s here, great — and if he’s not, we move on. That’s how we’ve done it in the past. This isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this, so my thing is, we just go. And whoever. The next guy is that’s going to step up there.
“We know Joe Thuney can do it in a heartbeat, so if we need to go that direction, we could go that direction. We’ve got some new faces in there that can also do it.”
Thuney started 17 games for the Chiefs last season, which included 16 games at his natural left guard position and one at left tackle: the Chiefs’ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals after Brown was injured in pregame work. In the game, Thuney allowed just one quarterback pressure during 40 snaps in pass protection.
If Brown chooses to sit out, the training camp workouts will not be the first he has missed. The Chiefs’ disgruntled left tackle skipped the Chiefs’ voluntary workouts and all of mandatory minicamp (as a reminder, Brown is not subject to fines as he is not under contract until he signs the tag).
“When you miss, you miss. It’s hard to make that up,” added Reid. “That’s just logical. But to say he doesn’t have a foundation — he has a foundation of the plays that we run and the things we do, but he missed all of OTAs and all of that — so the new stuff we’ve put in, that’s where he’ll have to catch up.”
Someone who may be able to help him with that when he does arrive is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has remained steadfastly in Brown’s corner as negotiations were ongoing throughout the offseason.
“I talk to Orlando all the time,” reaffirmed Mahomes. “Me and him have a great relationship. Obviously, we wanted to get the deal done. I’m sure he wanted to get the deal done, and everything like that — but at the end of the day, we’re going to go out there and play football, and I’m excited for him to be here and be a part of the team again.”
Mahomes said he never forces his teammates into anything when it comes to money and described Brown as a “team player,” saying the two would talk football despite him being absent for all of the Chiefs’ offseason workouts.
“Even when he wasn’t at OTAs, he’s asking me questions, he’s watching the film, he’s doing everything to make sure that when he steps here, he’s ready to go,” said Mahomes. “I think that comes with his dad playing in the league. He’s been around this sport his whole life. You ask anybody on this team, he’s one of the best guys on this team — if not the best one.”
Though things between the two sides have seemed to turn sour in recent days, Reid is optimistic that when the time comes, Brown will be able to separate what transpired this offseason from what needs to take place once he takes the field.
“There’s a time element, and I think players, with time, they’re able to sort that out,” said Reid, “the business side of it and the football side of it — they’re able to separate that. For the most part, the ones I’ve been around did a great job with that. And then they show up, and they do their football part.
“They’re still going to be paid, and Orlando’s going to be paid pretty good money, so they’re able to separate that and move on. That’s how it goes.”
Once Brown does sign his franchise tag, he will be in line to make $16.7 million in 2022 — more than three times as much he has made in his entire career. Still, for that to happen, he will need to show up.
The head coach wants to see that sooner rather than later — and so, too, does the quarterback.