We're inside a week before the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off. As we approach Roger Goodell stepping to the podium and placing the Jacksonville Jaguars on the clock, we have some pre-draft fireworks that are shaking up the board inside the first round. According to multiple reports, the Baltimore Ravens have traded tackle Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs. The deal also includes a number of draft picks, most notably the No. 31 overall selection, which is heading to Baltimore.
A deal revolving around Brown has been looming for quite some time. The Pro Bowl right tackle expressed his desire to play on the left side of the line this offseason. That likely wasn't going to be an option in Baltimore, who boasts Ronnie Stanley at that spot. Brown did play well when sliding over to left tackle when Stanley went down due to injury last year and now is set to make that transition permanent in Kansas City. For the Chiefs, they were in the market to improve at tackle for quarterback Patrick Mahomes after cutting Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz earlier this offseason. Those departures then opened the door for K.C. to target Brown and pull the trigger on this deal.
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Here is how the entire trade shakes out:
- Kansas City receives: LT Orlando Brown, 2021 second-round pick (No. 58 overall), 2022 sixth-round pick
- Baltimore receives: 2021 first-round pick (No. 31 overall), 2021 third-round pick (No. 94), 2021 fourth-round pick (No. 136), 2022 fifth-round pick
Below, we'll dive a bit deeper into how both clubs made out in this trade and ultimately come to a conclusion by handing out our grades for this deal.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs gave up quite a bit to get Brown in the building, but his arrival does fill a massive need along the offensive line. As we saw in Super Bowl LV, it doesn't really matter how talented Patrick Mahomes is if he can't have the proper amount of time to drop back and pass. Kansas City took care of the interior by adding guard Joe Thuney (five years, $80 million) in free agency and were able to lure fellow guard Kyle Long out of retirement earlier this offseason. However, the tackle spots were the emphasis and they now have one with intriguing potential in Brown. Of course, as a right tackle, we know Brown to be a Pro Bowl talent. That said, he'll be making the switch over the left side with the Chiefs, which does add somewhat of an unknown. When Brown was on the blindside for the Ravens in 2020, however, he was still a dominant Pro Bowl-caliber player. According to PFF, he allowed zero sacks or hits allowed in 389 pass-blocking snaps with the Ravens last year. Can he keep that up? There's really no reason to expect he won't.
That's the calculus that the Chiefs were likely calculating when mulling this trade. It's a much better bet to assume Brown will continue his strong play at left tackle than expecting any of the true top-tier tackle prospects at the draft being on the board at No. 31. The team should also be able to find an impact player at No. 58 in the second round.
While this trade fills a critical need for Kansas City, Brown is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and will be looking for an extension soon. With no deal currently struck at the time of the trade, the club does run the risk of losing the player after one season or needing to place the franchise tag on him next offseason. The price to acquire him combined with the lack of an extension leaving his future a bit murky at the moment is what keeps the Chiefs grade out of the A range. That said, this will drastically improve one of the AFC's powerhouses in 2021 and if they eventually come to terms on an extension the price is well worth it so long as Mahomes is upright.
The Ravens rid themselves of a player who wanted out and got a strong return for him, so there's not a lot to complain about here. While Brown played well at left tackle in 2020, the club is getting Pro Bowl tackle Ronnie Stanley back healthy for next season so there shouldn't be much of a talent drop-off at that position. Meanwhile, veteran Alejandro Villanueva is expected to replace Brown at right tackle so the Ravens have all of their bases covered in his departure. That said, the club will likely need to look for a long-term solution at right tackle as Villanueva will be 33 this season.
The Ravens now have two first-round assets (No. 27 and No. 31) to move around the board if they so choose and are just one of only four teams that currently own multiple first-round picks in this year's draft. The big need for the club is to add another talented receiver into the mix for Lamar Jackson. If one starts to fall into the mid-to-late teens, Baltimore now has plenty of ammo to move up the board to go get him. Of course, they could also simply elect to take players with each of their first-rounders and address more than one position of need (receiver and edge rusher).
What this trade did for Baltimore is turn an expendable asset into draft flexibility, which is exactly what clubs want this time of year. The addition of that first along with multiple selections on Day 2 and Day 3 completely opens up the board for Baltimore.