Not all NFL contracts are the same. Because the guarantees can be inexistent or all-encompassing and everything in between, it’s difficult to really get a feel for how good a contract is until the structure is laid out in front of us. But with the initial information gathered surrounding Orlando Brown Jr.’s contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, it at least appears that Mike Brown and Co. knocked this move out of the park.
The Bengals had a good amount of 2023 money to work with and few needs to round out the roster. Adding Brown fills their greatest need. Because if Cincinnati can’t protect Joe Burrow from the opposing defensive line, they won’t be able to secure the Super Bowl victory they so desire before the window starts to close.
Bengals Hit Home Run With Orlando Brown Jr. Contract
While Brown certainly isn’t the best offensive tackle in the NFL, it was shocking to see his average annual value fall in line as the 10th-highest left tackle contract in the league. He’s a better player than a few of those players above him, and we just saw Mike McGlinchey and Jawaan Taylor get the Brink’s truck backed up into their driveways.
Brown’s signing bonus north of $31 million is the largest ever awarded to an offensive tackle. The upfront money surely makes Brown happy, but it may make the Bengals even happier than their blocker. With a potential extension looming for Tee Higgins and absolutely monstrous contracts in the near future for both Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, having contractual flexibility with players is everything. Brown’s deal gives them the kind of flexibility to play with the salary cap in 2024 and beyond.
The low AAV is simply icing on the cake.
It’s hard to forget the horrific NFL Combine performance Brown put on all those years ago, and it makes one wonder if that day has continued to affect his value negatively, despite the abundance of evidence we have pointing to him being a really good blindside blocker.
Brown, and former teammate Andrew Wylie, for that matter, are good examples of how numbers can lie, particularly when it comes to evaluating offensive line play. In essence, OL metrics are still primitive compared to other positions and often lack nuance.
Nobody allowed more pressure in 2022 among the 58 offensive tackles with at least 600 blocking snaps. Wylie was second on that list. But Wylie finished inside the top 10 of ESPN’s pass-blocking win rate among OTs, and the Chiefs ranked as the third-best unit overall.
Well, we’ve all seen Patrick Mahomes play, right? He’s a wizard in the pocket who can make gold bars out of lemons. But he also can make life difficult for his offensive tackles.
Over the years, he’s become more consistent in his drop depths, but Mahomes is still a vagrant playing inside the pocket. He drifts backward and glides in every which direction, and gets away with it because he’s the second coming of Houdini. But it racks up the pressures on his offensive tackles, even when they’ve done their job.
What Does Jonah Williams’ Future Look Like Now?
Brown is more focused on playing left tackle at the NFL level than I am on making sure my chest keeps rising and falling. Not every player thinks about things like legacy, but it weighs heavily on Zeus.
Brown told NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo, “I’m super thankful for the opportunity to carry on my father’s legacy and be a left tackle. It was important to be able to play that position and play for a winning team and a winning quarterback. Who Dey!”
Brown is an upgrade over Jonah Williams and thrives where Williams falls a bit short. The move gives Cincinnati a ton of options. They can see if Williams would be willing to slide to the right side and play tackle or slide him one stop inside to play left guard. But that’s not the only option, and considering how much money Cincinnati is about to shell out in in-house contracts over the next few seasons, there’s another possibility.
The Bengals must weigh having Williams play another season in Cincinnati or try and trade him for a maximum asset in return. He’ll likely garner them a third or fourth-round comp pick for 2025, but the Bengals might want that inexpensive draft labor coming in earlier, and probably in the form of a second-round pick or similar. After all, Williams is a starting-caliber LT and only costs the team trading for him a shade over $12 million in 2023.
Because his contract is completely base salary, Cincinnati would receive complete cap relief from his contract unless they’d take on some of it in order to maximize the compensation from another team.
The Bengals don’t need to rush this decision, either. They can roll through free agency and the NFL draft with Williams on the roster and trade him at their leisure because the money doesn’t move at all pre- or post-June 1.
MORE: NFL Free Agency Tracker
Cincinnati is a historically cheap franchise. Former wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said on Colin Cowherd, “We didn’t have bottled water or Gatorade, and when we first got it, guys would be taking bottles of Gatorade home… The year before I got there, Willie Anderson was telling me they didn’t even have jockstraps.”
When they make moves like this, they’re often calculated to the most minute details. And with a roster ready to compete in a talented AFC, it appears Brown found a way to spend and still game the system to let him see the money necessary to keep his stars around when the time comes to pay them.
Maybe an old dog really can learn new tricks.