Here is some news: according to all the NFL insider-types the Kansas City Chiefs have traded their 1st round pick in next Thursday’s NFL Draft to the Baltimore Ravens for offensive tackle Orlando Brown. The full trade looks like this:
The Chiefs have spent their entire offseason — almost exclusively — overhauling an offensive line that last year got decimated by injuries and, ultimately, dominated in the Super Bowl. Over the last two and a half months they have signed interior offensive lineman Joe Thuney in free agency, guard Kyle Long, center Austin Blythe, and now they have traded their first round pick (and more) to the Ravens for Orlando Brown to fill the void at left tackle.
Notwithstanding that it’s going to take some time for this unit to gel, or that there’s a strong possibility that they will add more depth in next week’s draft, it’s kind of remarkable how quickly the Chiefs have turned their biggest weakness into a potential strength. It shows how willing and aggressive general manager Brett Veach is to protect the franchise, Patrick Mahomes, and continues piling on the idea that when you have a championship-level roster you have to go for it every year.
Kansas City isn’t out of the woods yet. By giving up the the 31st overall pick, as well as their 3rd and 4th rounders, it pretty much guarantees that they will fork over a monster contract to keep Orlando Brown longterm. Teams can’t simply give up their first draft pick to let a stud player walk in free agency after just one year. I mean they can, but they don’t. It isn’t a smart way of doing business in the NFL.
But how much did the Chiefs actually give up? Orlando Brown is an all-pro caliber left tackle — one of the most premium positions in the NFL — and they basically swapped the 31st pick for the Ravens’ second rounder (58th overall). Given the draft capital that was exchanged on both sides, the Chiefs basically picked Brown up for the equivalent of a mid-2nd rounder.
Looking at it from that perspective should make this exchange extremely palatable for Chiefs’ fans. After all, they weren’t going to select an offensive lineman who is ready to go right now, or at least to the degree and talent level of an Orlando Brown, at pick 31 in the draft. And when we look at the most recent major trade between two teams involving a Pro Bowl offensive lineman — when the Dolphins sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans in 2019 for not one but two first round picks — it makes what Kansas City gave up look like a pittance in comparison. (Especially considering the Texans’ 2021 first round pick ended up being #3 overall.)
I suppose the Ravens didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Orlando Brown grew disgruntled for both (a) the prospect of being moved back to right tackle after filling in at left tackle for the injured Ronnie Stanley last year, and (b) that he’s about to enter the last year of his contract. Given that the Ravens are going to plug Stanley back in to his natural position, keeping an unhappy Brown on the roster to play a position he had no interest in didn’t make sense. After filling in adequately at left tackle — and knowing how much more money left tackles earn on the free agent market than right tackles — Orlando Brown understood that his time in Baltimore needed to end.
That means the Ravens (probably) lost some leverage in their search to find a trade partner, and so they were (probably) happy to net a first round pick in return — even if it is near the very bottom of day one in the draft. Now that Baltimore has two low-first selections, it’s reasonable to assume they will either trade both to get closer to the top 10, or use one of them to trade back and acquire more picks. Or, who knows, maybe they do neither of those things and just pick someone at 27 and someone else at 31. The possibilities are endless!
While that is on the verge of being the best-case scenario for the Ravens — at least insofar as procuring a first round pick for an offensive lineman who was never going to play for them in 2021 — I can’t help but feel like this trade is a steal for the Chiefs. From my perspective, the key to everything is that Kansas City got back Baltimore’s second round pick. Now that they are selecting at 58th and 63rd overall, GM Brett Veach can either select two quality players, or be able to trade out and get a couple additional picks. If you read the previous paragraph you are already picking up what I’m putting down. The only difference is, as I imagine you are clever enough to understand, picks 27 and 31 are significantly more valuable from a trading back standpoint than 58 and 63.
Aside from the obvious draft implications, it’s hard to overstate just how important the Orlando Brown addition means to the Chiefs. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking having Patrick Mahomes at quarterback supplies a bandaid for the rest of the team and organization. A lot of dumb-dumbs like me were advocating for Kansas City to say ‘Fuck all the bullshit, let’s just give this dude a bunch of playmakers at wide receiver and outscore everyone every week.’ And those people, like me, were obviously wrong.
In a weird way, plugging Brown in at left tackle — combined with adding Joe Thuney and Kyle Long to the O-line — is going to make Patrick Mahomes’s greatness less necessary. It is going to make running backs Clyde Edwards-Elaire and Darrel Williams more effective on early and short-yardage downs, and it’s going to buy more time for Mahomes in the passing game. That means an extra second or two here and there for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to get open, and it even means receivers Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson will have more time to find separation from their defenders.
Offensive lineman are not sexy (or maybe they are depending on who you know), but at the end of the day football is still a game that is won in the trenches. No team ever wants to lose a Super Bowl, but there’s a chance the 31-9 blowout the Chiefs absorbed a couple months ago gave them the information necessary to build the dynasty everyone assumes they are on the path towards. Had they beat the Bucs, or at least put up a fight, Kansas City may have gone into the offseason under the assumption that everything they had been doing was correct. Losing in the fashion they did highlighted the elephant in the room.
I think back to 2018, Patrick Mahomes’s first year as a starter. The Chiefs had the best offense in the NFL, and one of the best offensive units of all-time. Yet when they ran into the Patriots in the AFC Championship, it became clear that the defense wasn’t ready to play for a Super Bowl. New England ultimate won in overtime, 37-31, because that piss-poor defense wasn’t good enough to get Mahomes the ball back in overtime.
What that led to was Kansas City firing their defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, hiring Steve Spagnuolo and switching to a 4-3 defensive scheme. While they were at it, they also traded their first round pick to the Seahawks for defensive end Frank Clark, and later signed safety Tyrann Mathieu. The result of that was a win over the 49ers in Super Bowl 54 the following season, which paved the way for a 14-2 regular season and another Super Bowl appearance in 2020.
The parallels between 2018 and 2020 are there, and while I’m not saying it automatically makes the Chiefs next year’s Super Bowl winner I am saying that acquiring Orlando Brown and fortifying the offensive line should scare the rest of the league. I mean, Kansas City was already the Super Bowl favorite (+500) before any of that happened.
As an observer who enjoys the NFL Draft I’m a bit disappointed that my team won’t be picking in the first round. But given the glaring need the Chiefs had at left tackle, the fact that they were picking 31st overall and weren’t going to get a guy like Orlando Brown, and that there’s a real possibility he holds down the left side of the line for the next 5-10 years, I think Kansas City hit a home run with this trade. And I don’t know but I just can’t wait to get meaningful football back underway.