The Chiefs continue a massive overhaul of their offensive line following last year’s Super Bowl loss where the offensive line came under all kinds of criticism this time making a move for Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown who will move to the left side of the line in Kansas City. Brown is in the final year of his contract and should be in line for a big pay day now that he has been traded.
The terms of the trade according to Adam Schefter will see the Chiefs send over this years 31st, 94th, and 136th overall picks as well as a 2022 5th rounder for Brown, the 58th pick in the draft and a 6th round pick in 2022. This is a pretty big price to pay for an expiring contract, basically the value of a mid first round pick.
The biggest winner in all of this should be Brown who had made it know he wanted to be a left tackle and this trade opens up a massive payday for him. The Chiefs committed $16 million a year to guard Joe Thuney in free agency, about $2 million a year more than the next highest paid guard in the NFL. The average differential between top guard and top left tackle salary is around $4 million so I would say at a minimum Brown should be looking at $20 million a season, which is more than his teammate Ronnie Stanley earned from the Ravens.
Recent players traded for big returns have also earned record setting contracts which should make Brown more bullish on his prospects for a big pay day. Laremy Tunsil set a record with a $22 million contract extension in Houston and Jalen Ramsey landed the first ever $20 million per year contract for a cornerback. Neither signed a contract immediately upon trade and only saw their value increase because of it.
The money puts the Chiefs in an interesting spot with the potential for over $35 million a year committed to just two positions on their offensive line. The current NFL average for average spend on left tackle and top paid guard is around $17 million. The 49ers are the top team in the NFL at $28.15 million which is a big gap to $35+ million.
Most teams go with a strategy of draft one, pay one if they look for a top 1-2 punch at the two positions. Only five teams in the NFL have both a left tackle and a guard both at more than $10 million a season. Those teams are the Broncos, Titans, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Saints. So this will be a somewhat unique situation.
I guess the question is did the Chiefs always intend to spend on this position or was this a change in focus when Brown became available to them. While I can throw all these numbers out there that will paint the Chiefs as an outlier the fact was their former left tackle, Eric Fisher, was going to be a free agent after this season. While Fisher was not looked at as a Bakhtiari type I would imagine that he was going to sign for around $17 million a season.
If we make that assumption I would guess that the Chiefs had budgeted around $80 million over the next five years for Fisher (Fisher was set to earn $12 million this year). Because Brown will only cost the team $3.384 million this year that would put the money at around $85.3 million on a $20 million a year contract (Fisher should qualify for injury protection of $2 million this year which is why the number is higher). Brown is much younger than Fisher and the ultimate cost is pretty similar if we look at it that way.
So if the plan before his injury was to make a run at one of the two big guards in free agency and re-sign Fisher then they will wind up right on track with the original plans. If that was never the intention, well this is a big expense that they will need to consider. They will have the right to tag Brown next year in the ballpark of $17 million as well which can factor into the equation as well.
Brown will join a revamped line that includes Thuney, an un-retired Kyle Long, and the returning Mike Remmers. There were rumors that the Chiefs could also be interested in bringing back Mitchell Schwartz as well.
While risky for the Chiefs it is clear that they are in a window of opportunity right now and taking these risks are often best done during these times. They will walk away down only one player since they will obtain two draft picks and Brown for their four picks so they should still be able to add depth to the team in the draft even if the probabilities of landing better cheap players falls with the moves down the draft.
We estimate the Chiefs to be around $7 million in net cap space in 2022 which will become a very interesting year for them. In addition to Brown being a free agent they will also have a new contract for Tyrann Mathieu to decide on. Tyreek Hill will enter the final year of his contract and could also very well be looking for an extension.
As for the Ravens they have to be thrilled with the trade. Brown was not going to be happy there this year and was certainly not going to factor into their long term plans. The Ravens are a very draft centric team and this gives them more ammunition this year to add to the group around Lamar Jackson as they try to take that next step and get to the level the Chiefs are at.
Really that last line is the most intriguing part of the trade for me. While the Bills were certainly in the mix last season and may be as well this season I think the Chiefs and Ravens had established themselves as 1 and 2 in the conference. To see the two teams ranked like that make this kind of trade is rare. In my mind you have to really think that the trade either really widens or narrows the gap to make the trade so both probably have pretty different viewpoints and the value here.
If I had to guess the Ravens probably look at this more like I did above and believe they are getting the value of the 1st round pick in the trade. The Chiefs perhaps are looking at it more from a volume perspective where they are just down 1 player in total and given their needs can fill most of the depth they need through those later picks. We will need to wait until the regular season though to see which of the two teams comes out ahead.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.