By Nick Athan
On Monday afternoon the Twitter verse went sideways with the news, the Kansas City Chiefs will not place the franchise tag on Left Tackle, Orlando Brown, Jr. That means the two-year, pro bowl starter will be playing somewhere else this season.
For the past two seasons, Orlando Brown, Jr., was a fixture at left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs. The move suggests that Kansas City will look heavily into free agency or the NFL Draft to find a new left tackle.
After dragging his feet for months trying to hire an agent, he settled on the newcomer, Michael Portner. In choosing someone who has never represented an NFL player, his efforts to sign a long-term deal last offseason failed at zero hour. In essence, General Manager, Brett Veach offered Brown, a six-year, heavily backloaded, $139 million deal. However, the sticking point for Portner was the fact Veach was only willing to guarantee the 2022 and 2023 seasons. So basically it was a two-year $46M deal. Brown was not happy, and until prompted to end his holdout a week into training camp by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, to his credit he showed up in shape and ready to go.
In brief, talks since the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII, the two sides spoke about a new deal, but Kansas City felt they made their best offer a season ago. In informing Portner today the team will not place the franchise tag on his client for the second consecutive year, he can now find a new home for his client next week.
So where do the Chiefs go from here if indeed the move today does not force the hand of Brown to accept last year’s offer?
One option might be three-time pro bowl Left Tackle, Taylor Lewan, who was cut by the Tennessee Titans last month. He is attempting to resurrect his career after injuring his second ACL early in the season.
The other option might be to make a run at Houston Texans Left Tackle, Laremy Tunsil. Though it’s expected he’ll return to the AFC South team, Veach has always been high on him as a player. He has a big cap number for the Texans, and with a new head coach, he’s entering the prime years playing for a very bad football team.
If the Chiefs can’t find a veteran left tackle in the next two weeks, they really don’t have any internal options on the roster. Lucas Niang, once considered a future staple on the offensive line, has battled injuries his entire career. Some feel his destiny lies as a backup.
The Chiefs could move All-Pro Guard, Joe Thuney from left guard to tackle, but that would be a risky move. The interior of KC’s offensive line is the best in the NFL.
That leaves the NFL Draft. Would Veach, and Head Coach, Andy Reid, line up next season with a rookie left tackle to protect the franchise, Patrick Mahomes? I’d have a hard time believing either would take that risk. If they do, picking at #31 in the first round, won’t likely give them a future pro bowl left tackle. Fortunately, they have the draft capital to move up in round one if there is a run on quarterbacks in the Top 15, and the tackles start sliding down.
Either way, Veach didn’t make this decision lightly, and I doubt he did it without knowing his next move. This move is eerily like the one that forced the Chiefs to trade Tyreek Hill a year ago. Once the deal was done, Veach had the plan to rebuild the Chiefs wide receiver room, and that worked out just fine for the Super Bowl Champs.