Perspective — as they say — is everything.
So let’s get some about the story of now-former Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who will now be playing for his third team: the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brown began his career as the Baltimore Ravens’ right tackle, where he played for two seasons.
But after an injury sidelined star left tackle Ronnie Stanley in 2020, Brown was moved over to the left side of the line, where he spent most of the season and earned his second Pro Bowl.
With Stanley ready to return in 2021, Brown requested a trade so that he could continue to play left tackle. The Chiefs — having released both of their starting tackles after serious injuries had sidelined them — were an ideal trading partner.
Just days before the 2021 NFL Draft, Kansas City traded its first, third, fourth and 2022 fifth-round picks for Brown, Baltimore’s second-round selection and its sixth-round pick in 2022.
The Ravens traded away two of their new picks. With the others, the team selected Odafe Oweh — a nice rotational pass rusher who has accumulated eight sacks in two seasons — and guard Ben Cleveland, who might start in 2023 after Ben Powers signed with the Denver Broncos. Ronnie Stanley still holds down left tackle for Baltimore — and the team has good answers on the right side: Morgan Moses and Patrick Mekari.
The Ravens have to feel pretty good about Brown’s career there. 2018’s third-round pick gave the team two good seasons at right tackle and one at left tackle — and then Baltimore was able to trade away a disgruntled player and acquire two useful ones. That’s a win.
The Chiefs traded the sixth-round pick they acquired with Brown — but with the second-rounder, they added an important player: linebacker Nick Bolton.
Brown, however, brought something the team’s offensive line desperately needed: stability. During his time in Kansas City, he may have consistently played at a league-average level, but he started all but one game. He played an important role in transforming one of the team’s weaknesses into a strength — one that ultimately helped them win Super Bowl LVII.
Yes... if the Chiefs had been able to retain Brown on a new contract, the trade to acquire him would seem more fulfilling. However, general manager Brett Veach knows that when building around quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ contract, every dollar counts.
It now appears that Veach read 2023’s market correctly: Brown wanted more than the Chiefs were willing to pay. A year ago, he turned down an offer that was essentially $19 million a year for five years. Before free agency began, it’s likely that Brown insisted on an even bigger deal from Kansas City.
Still, the Chiefs can also feel good about the trade. Depending on the draft value chart used, Kansas City gave up something between the 15th and 45th selection of the draft. With that, the team got two years of Brown’s stability — and and an exciting defensive playmaker for at least four.
To put it another way, Brown may not have turned out to be the Chiefs’ “Mr. Right.” But he certainly turned out to be the team’s “Mr. Right Now.”
The Bengals also have to feel good about bringing Brown to Cincinnati.
In the past two seasons, the team has been stopped short of a championship — at least in part — by a lack of depth and talent on its offensive line. (Sound familiar?) After waiting out the initial flurry of free-agency moves — which exposed the reality of the market to Brown and his camp — the Bengals were able to sign their durable new left tackle to a four-year deal that averaged $16 million a year.
Essentially, the Bengals acquired a much-needed piece for their offensive line at a fair market price.
The bottom line
The Ravens got plenty of value from Brown before gaining roster depth from 2021’s trade — and still have long-term answers at both left and right tackle. For the Chiefs, the trade led to two seasons of stability on the offensive line — including a Super Bowl victory — and a star linebacker. To Cincinnati, Brown brings an upside similar to what he provided Kansas City — and will continue to play the position he promised his late father he would play.
It doesn’t happen often, but this feels like a win for everyone involved.