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Beginning today, NFL teams can designate the franchise tag or transition tag on one of their pending free agents. The deadline to make that decision is scheduled for two weeks from today, March 8th. The Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of major names due for free agency this offseason. And while more than one of those names could garner consideration for the franchise tag, one player stands out above the rest.
Kansas City left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has only been with the Chiefs for one season. However, his impact and leadership were crucial throughout much of the 2021 season. Brown Jr. finished the season strong. Down the stretch, he displayed a more well-rounded hand technique and quicker feet during his pass sets. Brown Jr. finished the year with only six sacks allowed and seven penalties committed.
That is quite impressive, given that it was his first full NFL season at left tackle. Brown Jr. also had to adjust harshly from the extreme of playing in one offensive playbook and blocking scheme in Baltimore, to a completely different one in Kansas City.
Why is Orlando Brown Jr. a prime candidate for the franchise tag? What kind of salary would he have in 2022, if he were tagged? Plus, is the possibility of him signing a contract extension with the Chiefs on the table? Let’s kick it off.
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Breakdown Of Franchise/Transition Tags
Before we dive further into the case of Brown Jr., let’s quickly look at the parameters that surround the franchise tag and the transition tag.
Non-exclusive franchise tag
There are actually two types of franchise tags that the NFL can use with players. The most commonly used one is the non-exclusive franchise tag. Under this, the player’s salary is the greater of 120 percent of their current wage, or the average salary cap percentage of the top five players at their position over the previous five seasons. This percentage is applied to the current salary cap to determine the one-year compensation for that position. In addition, teams could possibly net two first round draft picks if the tagged player goes to a different team, under the non-exclusive franchise tag.
Exclusive franchise tag
It is based on the greater 120 percent of the player’s current salary or based on the top five player salaries at the given position in mid-April of the current year. This means that free agency has already been open for around a month. Overall, the exclusive franchise tag generally nets the tagged player a higher compensation for one season, compared to what they would get with the non-exclusive franchise tag.
This works just like the non-exclusive franchise tag. However, there are a couple of differences. The calculation for the player’s one-year compensation is actually based on the top 10 players at their position during the last five years, rather than top five players. As a result, the compensation could come in a bit lower than what the player could have received with the non-exclusive franchise tag. Players can also negotiate deals with other teams once being hit with the transition tag. Nonetheless, the original team still has the opportunity to match any outside offer for that player, if they so choose.
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Why Orlando Brown Jr.?
There are many reasons as to why Orlando Brown Jr. serves as the overriding candidate to receive one of these tags from the Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s start with the items that general manager Brett Veach mentioned in his end of season press conference. There were specific wants that the blocker was seeking upon leaving the Ravens. He wanted to play the left tackle position, as he was mainly a right tackle with Baltimore. There was also the appeal of protecting a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes and being part of the winning culture that the Chiefs had created.
On top of those wants, the Chiefs paid a hefty price in order to acquire Brown Jr. last offseason. The trade details were as follows between Kansas City and Baltimore:
- Orlando Brown Jr.
- 2021 second round pick (which resulted in linebacker Nick Bolton)
- 2022 sixth round pick
- 2021 first round pick (which resulted in defensive end Odafe Oweh)
- 2021 third round pick (which resulted in guard Ben Cleveland)
- 2021 fourth round pick (which ended up being traded to the Arizona Cardinals)
- 2022 fifth round pick
To give up that much to another top contending team in the AFC, the Chiefs were hoping that Brown Jr. was going to be in their long-term plans. Finding a franchise left tackle is harder than some expect. Finally, the Chiefs also made a point to surround Mahomes with greater protection, after making a trade like that.
Besides him being a potential franchise cornerstone, Brown Jr. is also still early in his career. He is currently only 25 years old (will turn 26 this upcoming May). The Chiefs are also gifted to have his rare combination of size, power and short area quickness at their disposal.
What Does 2022 Salary Look Like?
If Orlando Brown Jr. were to receive the franchise tag as expected, he would be set to earn nearly $17 million for 2022. We should point out that the NFL has not finalized the exact compensation yet. Though, Over the Cap is projecting that the franchise tag figure for offensive linemen will be $16.7 million. That takes into account the increase of the figure for the position each season. To boot, the value of offensive linemen, and specifically left tackles, is near the top of the team building chart.
The Chiefs are already in need of making moves to add available 2022 salary cap space for themselves. We know which names are likely on the docket to be released or traded in order to make that happen. But yet, that $16.7 million salary may still put Kansas City in a bind. More money will be necessary, when it comes to making reinforcements in other areas of the roster. The Chiefs can of course help themselves out in that regard by taking it a step further with Brown Jr.
Could Kansas City Sign Brown Jr. To An Extension?
Obviously, the opportunity to extend the left tackle still exists. They would not have to designate the franchise tag on Orlando Brown Jr. if they did not want to. However, this protects the Chiefs from losing him right away on the open market. He has that right as a pending unrestricted free agent once the free agent signing period opens. But if the tag is applied, it gives Kansas City an edge in retaining Brown Jr.
Applying the tag can also help out both parties when it comes to signing a contract extension. The Chiefs are able to reassess their current and future salary cap commitments with this allotted time. In the case of Brown Jr., there is always a new time or chance that he could reset or shift the left tackle market.
As Veach mentioned, he expects Orlando Brown Jr. to be Chiefs’ left tackle moving forward. That does not seem to be changing any time soon. It may start via the franchise tag.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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