KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. on Monday, making it a near-certainty that he will play for Kansas City next season while also giving the two sides time to work out a long-term contract.
In an aggressive revamping of their offensive line last offseason, the Chiefs traded a first-round pick and three other draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens to acquire Brown, even though he had just one year left on his rookie contract.
By expending that much draft capital on protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes' blind side, it became clear that Kansas City planned to either sign Brown to an extension or place the franchise tag on him. Because the Chiefs did the latter with a non-exclusive tag, Brown has the freedom to negotiate with other teams while Kansas City keeps the option of matching any offer.
If the Chiefs let Brown go, they would receive two first-round draft picks in compensation.
“We're going to work hard to get a deal done with him,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said at last week's scouting combine in Indianapolis. “Hopefully everything ends up in a positive direction.”
If Brown plays next season under the franchise tag, he would be paid the average of the top five salary cap hits for NFL left tackles. The exact number is not yet available, but it's likely to be about $16.5 million.
Teams had until Tuesday afternoon to place the franchise tag on a player.
Brown started every game for Kansas City last season, and every game the two years before that with Baltimore. He's missed just six of 64 regular-season games since he was the Ravens' third-round pick in the 2018 draft.
“Typically, the larger the deals the longer they take. We’ve been through that with Patrick and Chris (Jones) and what have you,” Veach said. “We’re going to work to see if we can get things executed as efficiently as possible, but we also know that it might take some time and we feel confident though by the start of the season we’ll be in a good place there.”
By using the tag on Brown, the Chiefs are allowing safety Tyrann Mathieu to explore free agency. The three-time All-Pro has made it clear that he wants to return to Kansas City, and Veach acknowledged last week that he would prefer to see No. 32 leading the Chiefs' secondary next season, but the numbers have to work for the cash-strapped franchise.
The Chiefs already released linebacker Anthony Hitchens to save some money, but they will need to make additional moves — either cuts or the restructuring of contracts — to get below the salary cap.
“We had a chance to talk (to Mathieu’s agents). We communicated that we certainly love Tyrann, and Tyrann loves being here. This is actually the start of that process now,” Veach said. “Once the season ends, the coaches do their deal and we sit back, we collect all the information — we get with the coaches after they go through their scheme evaluations.
“And we know that once Indy rolls around,” Veach continued, “we’ll have a chance to on one end, see all the great college prospects, but on the other hand, have an opportunity to talk with our players’ agents and exchange information.”
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