Around 14 months ago — when the Kansas City Chiefs traded with the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — a day that played out like Wednesday didn’t seem all that likely.
The Chiefs sent a first-rounder for Brown as part of a deal that included an exchange of a number of picks from both teams, and there seemed to be a mutual understanding that with Brown entering the final year of his contract, the franchise tag was very much on the table.
Fast forward those 14 months and Brown is indeed franchise-tagged — but after offseason negotiations did not lead to a long-term contract extension, he has chosen to sit out the beginning of training camp. In Brown’s absence, Roderick Johnson, a former fifth-rounder (and NFL journeyman over the past five seasons), has earned the first crack at the starting left tackle position.
“He was productive in the offseason,” said head coach Andy Reid of Johnson. “Coming in, we thought he could help out. We’ll just see how it goes.”
The 26-year-old Johnson spent last season with the Miami Dolphins practice squad, but he did not take a regular-season snap. Johnson landed with the Chiefs on a reserve/futures contract in February. Other options for the Chiefs at left tackle likely include Geron Christian, who had eight starts for the Houston Texans last season. He worked at left tackle with the Chiefs’ second team on Wednesday.
“We’re going to keep rotating, keep rotating them in,” added Reid. “Nothing’s solidified there.”
In early June, Brown told NFL Media publicly that it was “not the year to go into the season with a backup left tackle.” But those comments were before the July 15 deadline, and this is now. Brown can only play on the franchise tag in 2022 — and there is a fair argument to be made that he is not only hurting the team in skipping camp; he is also hurting himself by not getting the best possible chance to prove the Chiefs wrong with an outstanding season.
Still, his “backup left tackle” point remains valid. The Johnson and Christian options are not ideal for a Chief team with Super Bowl aspirations, but the month of camp should allow the coaching and personnel staff to see if they are capable replacements.
If not, Kansas City does have a break-glass answer in left guard Joe Thuney. During his opening training camp preference, Reid noted Thuney could slide over, just as he did in Week 17 last season as Brown was an emergency scratch. Still, when asked if Thuney would be taking reps there any time soon, Reid said, “Probably not right now.”
Meanwhile, Brown’s teammates continued to say all the right things.
“Orlando’s a close friend,” said right guard Trey Smith. “I talk to him, but at the end of the day, that’s going to be with Brett Veach and Orlando Brown. They’re going to make the right decision, and they’re going to be ready to go when the time’s [right].”
Odds are the questions will continue to be asked until Brown shows up. In the meantime, the Chiefs need to prepare as if he never will.
You can find my full observations from Wednesday’s practice here.
- Did not practice (due to injury): CB Rashad Fenton (shoulder) OL Lucas Niang (knee) OL Prince Tega Wanogho (leg) and DT Cortez Broughton (waived due to failed physical)
- Limited: DE Frank Clark (illness)
Tweet of the day
The excitement to see Travis Kelce in person again was palpable.
Quote of the day
Chiefs safety Justin Reid after spending the first four years of his career in Houston: “There’s something to be said about a fresh start, and this is a new-look defense, you could say. We have a lot of new faces. They’re going to be starting a lot of guys who are gritty and been hungry for the opportunity to prove their worth and show who they are as players. We want to be an attitude defense, want to come out and set the tempo. We want to be physical. We want to be dominant. When it comes down to the end of the game and we have a lead, we want to be the ones that finish it and not have to rely on the offense to go out there and do anything. That’s the attitude that we’re building, and that’s the attitude we’re going to continue with the whole season.”
The Chiefs return to the practice field on Thursday for the first workout open to the public (Wednesday’s practice was for season-ticket holders). The practice begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Here’s the complete schedule.