The frustration is growing from the Kansas City Chiefs‘ standpoint. And the contract impasse between the AFC West club and unsigned left offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. simply couldn’t be bridged in advance of a July 15 NFL deadline for franchise-tagged players to negotiate long-term deals.
Orlando Brown Jr., Chiefs don’t reach long-term deal
Brown is now set to play under the franchise tender this season … whenever he gets around to reporting. And that may take a while, according to league sources. One source predicted Brown won’t report for training camp until after the second preseason game, at the earliest.
Another source predicted the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s absence, which is allowed without financial penalties under collective bargaining agreement rules governing unsigned franchise players, will run all the way up to the start of the regular season, with Brown eventually showing up to protect the blind side of star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Although the Chiefs offered Brown a six-year, $139 million contract that included a $30.25 million signing bonus with $95 million due in the first five seasons of the proposal, Brown declined the lucrative offer because so much money was back-loaded into the final year.
The Baltimore Ravens decided to trade Brown a year ago partly because they were concerned about how difficult it would be to get him to agree to a long-term deal, per league sources, along with their already hefty financial commitment to left tackle Ronnie Stanley. So, they sent Brown to Kansas City in exchange for four draft selections, including a first-round pick.
A source emphasized that the Chiefs are displeased that Brown opted to pass on their offer, which they feel was extremely fair.
That leaves Brown, whenever he reports, to play under a $16.62 million one-year franchise tender. He has company around the league with Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, and Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III all now scheduled to play this season under franchise tenders.
Chiefs preparing to plug in Joe Thuney at left tackle
Chiefs coach Andy Reid sounds like he’s bracing for a potentially long absence from Brown.
“I don’t know whether he’s going to be here or not,” Reid said during a press conference. “If he’s here, great. And if he’s not, we move on. That’s how we’ve done it in the past. This isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this.
“So my thing is, we just go. And whoever the next guy is that’s going to step in there — we know Joe Thuney can do it in a heartbeat. So if we need to go that direction, we can go that direction. We’ve got some new faces in there that can also do it.”
As Reid acknowledged, this is part of the business of sports. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree. As former Ravens coach Brian Billick liked to say, there’s a time for pay and a time for play. Football season is approaching.
“That’s the name of this game, where we are today,” Reid said. “It’s probably been that way for a number of years — go back to Babe Ruth moving to the Yankees from the Red Sox. A great player, this type of thing in professional sports goes on. And you work through it. You work through it as a player, you work through it as a team, and move forward.”
The son of late Ravens offensive tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown, who died in his sleep from diabetic ketoacidosis, Brown Jr. is a former All-American and All-Big 12 selection from Oklahoma who plays the game with outstanding power and technique. He has worked his way into emerging as one of the best offensive tackles in the game.
As hard as Brown may work independently, though, it’s not the same as being in a football environment.
“We love Orlando here,” Reid said. “He’s a good human being, and he’s a good professional. He’s grown up around it. I think he’s got good counsel. So we just have to work through it. It’s hard to make that (missed time) up. That’s just logical, but he has a foundation of the plays that we run and the things that we do. He missed all of the OTAs, so the new stuff that we’ve put in is where he’ll have to catch up.
“I think players, with time, are able to sort that out, the business side and the football side. For the most part, the ones I’ve been around did a great job with that. And then they show up and do their football part. Orlando is going to be paid pretty good money.”
Brown Jr. trying to maximize value
Brown, 26, is trying to capitalize on this moment of cashing in during his prime years. And the Chiefs want him back in the fold.
There’s time to work something out next offseason or even have him play under the franchise tag again if no deal can be worked out. And Brown can use this season to show the Chiefs he’s worthy of a bigger financial commitment with more upfront money.
If he doesn’t report for a while or isn’t ready to play when he does, the relationship could grow more awkward and frayed. Once Brown shows up, the Chiefs can move on from the contract dispute and concentrate on the task at hand: trying to get back to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes expressed support for Brown when he arrived at training camp.
“As far as loving the Chiefs and loving football, there’s not another person in this building that loves it as much as he does,” Mahomes said. “The stuff that’s always tough is the business side of it. I mean, all of us want to provide for our families in the long term and next generations.”