After asking for a historic contract and commitment, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is not proving his worth on the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line.
No matter the play type, scheme, or direction, Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown has gone from a hopeful franchise left tackle to liability in 2022. His average play has left the team in the lurch with their current game plan and their approach to 2023 and beyond.
Brown’s contract negotiations were one of the Chiefs’ biggest offseason storylines. After Kansas City traded away a lot of draft capital to acquire him, Brown had some transitional pains in 2021. He looked like a bust at the beginning of the season but turned it around in the second half. The excuses for his slow start were plausible. Brown came from a run-heavy scheme in Baltimore to the polar opposite pass-happy scheme in Kansas City. Plus, he was still transitioning to left tackle after being Baltimore’s primary right tackle. There were several reasons for Brown’s disappointing debut year in Kansas City.
His 2021 performance did not hinder the Chiefs from franchise-tagging Brown when they could. The move made sense and still does. The Chiefs lacked another rostered option at left tackle, and no stand-out pass blockers would be available to the Chiefs via the draft. Besides, both Brown and the Chiefs voiced a willingness to negotiate a long-term contract when Brown was ready. Negotiations cooled until Brow hired first-time agent Michael Portner to represent him in June 2022. Ultimately, the Chiefs and Brown’s camp could not compromise despite a historic offer from Kansas City.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Chiefs “offered Brown the highest signing bonus and average-per-year [amount for a left tackle] on a six-year-deal”. He added that Portner said they were close, but the security over the life of the contract was not enough.
According to an ESPN report, the Chiefs’ final offer to Brown was a six-year, $139 million deal that included a $30.25 million signing bonus and $95 million in the first five years of the contract. The offer was more than generous, but the Chiefs expected Brown to be the franchise left tackle for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
After the contract negotiations ended, there seemed to be bad blood between Brown and the Chiefs. Kansas City front office members said “this isn’t the same guy that we traded for,” saying Brown was not a team player and difficult to work with. Sure, these statements are anonymous and should be taken with a grain of salt. But, where there is plenty of smoke, there is a fire.
Both parties have moved on to the regular season, but there are still some effects of Brown’s extensive negotiations going nowhere. Each of Kansas City’s moves this past offseason had to be made considering a possible Brown deal. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach loves to back-load contracts. metaphorically kicking the financial can down the road. But, Brown’s $16.7 million cap hit emptied the Chiefs’ war chests, taking up a good portion of the Chiefs’ cap space. Without an extension. the Chiefs couldn’t re-sign veterans like cornerback Charvarius Ward, defensive end Melvin Ingram, or safety Tyrann Mathieu. While some of those players were unlikely to return, Kansas City’s lack of cap space turned a probability into a certainty.
The Chiefs could have used that cap space flexibility to retain Ingram, add another veteran wide receiver, or bolster a young defensive backfield. But Brown’s franchise tag made those moves unlikely. If Brown was dominating so far this season, the franchise tag would seem like a discount. However, Brown is not even playing up to that salary, much less the one he felt he deserved this summer.
After Week 4, Brown was amongst the worst offensive tackles in the league. His nine quarterback hurries allowed is tied for the league’s worst mark, while he ranks in the bottom five for quarterback hits allowed, pressures allowed, and sacks allowed. Again, take it for what it is worth, but Brown’s 54.9 PFF grade for pass blocking ranks 48th amongst offensive tackles.
Right now, Brown is not worth the historic deal Kansas City offered him this offseason.
Granted, Brown still has time to turn things around. There are 13 regular season games left, and Brown has faced some of the league’s best pass rushers so far. The schedule gets a little more forgiving for Brown’s one-on-one matchups, but the fact remains that Brown looks like a weak link on the offensive line. A positive change in his performance will make this offseason’s negotiations even more awkward.
Brown hinders the Chiefs’ future plans simply because they have to devote further time and money to these negotiations. If Brown wanted to, he could hold up another offseason of free-agent signings, extensions, or trades. While it is too early to determine Brown’s future in Kansas City, Veach will have to decide at some point.