News & Analysis

Examining the trade value of Baltimore Ravens tackle Orlando Brown

Jan 16, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown (78) jogs on the field prior to an AFC Divisional Round game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

According to Ian Rapoport, Ravens tackle Orlando Brown wants to be traded. The third-round pick out of Oklahoma has been the fifth-most valuable offensive tackle since entering the league in 2018, earning the same amount of wins above replacement as his teammate Ronnie Stanley, who just signed a five-year contract worth almost $100 million.

Stanley is now the third-highest-paid tackle in football, trailing only Packers LT David Bakhtiari and Texans LT Laremy Tunsil, which perhaps could’ve made it challenging for the Ravens to shell out top dollar to Brown in the near future.

When Stanley went down shortly after signing his extension, Brown took over for him at left tackle and was very good in his 700 snaps there. He surrendered no sacks and no quarterback hits in his starts at the position and allowed just 16 pressures overall. He reportedly wants to play left tackle instead of right tackle, which makes sense given the pay disparity between the two positions. The switch would necessitate a trade out of Baltimore. 

Philadelphia Eagles RT Lane Johnson, also a former Oklahoma Sooner left tackle, has been in his own stratosphere in terms of compensation among right tackles for his entire career for this very same reason. He was drafted No. 4 overall 2013 with the idea that he’d eventually slide over to left tackle and supplant Jason Peters. But Peters has continued to play as he approaches 40 years of age. 

Johnson’s 2016 extension with an average of $11.25 million per year set a record among right tackles in terms of the average as a percent of the salary cap at signing (7.2%). It took until 2019 for another right tackle to even reach the $10 million per year mark. Subsequently, Johnson reset the record in 2019 with an extension averaging $18 million per year, which came out to 9.6% of the cap at signing.

Raiders tackle Trent Brown ($16.5 million) is the only other right tackle in the NFL who currently earns more than $14 million per year, and he was also signed after playing left tackle in New England. He slid over after arriving in Oakland/Las Vegas.

Oct 18, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown (78) and offensive guard Patrick Mekari (65) block against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond just the financial implications, Orlando Brown shared a Twitter thread detailing how his late father — also a member of the Baltimore Ravens back in the late 1990s/early 2000s — had always hoped he would play left tackle.

Orlando Brown is the best recent example of why the NFL Combine can be overvalued and too much stock can be placed in a series of athletic tests that may not necessarily show up on the football field. Brown’s testing numbers were pedestrian enough to drop him all the way down to the No. 83 overall pick in the third-round in 2018 after many experts believed he would fall somewhere in the late-first to early-second round. 

The Baltimore Ravens trusted Brown’s tape from Oklahoma, where he started every game at left tackle from 2015-17 protecting the blindside for QB Baker Mayfield. The Sooners went 34-6 over the three-year stretch, capped off with an appearance in the 2018 College Football Playoff, where Oklahoma eventually fell in an epic 54-48, double-overtime shootout to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Brown quieted his NFL doubters pretty much immediately, showing no significant issues with adjusting to NFL speed and power in his rookie season. Offensive tackles have one of the steeper learning curves among all positions, making Brown’s 67.8 overall grade in his rookie season — at a position he hadn’t played recently in right tackle — all the more impressive.

Brown has three straight seasons with pass-blocking grades of 73.5 or better but took a big leap in 2020 in run-blocking, which is of course crucial to the Ravens offensive attack. His 72.8 run-blocking grade in 2020 in the NFL’s run-heaviest offense further illustrates that his athleticism concerns were overblown. 

Looking at the potential trade market, the Baltimore Ravens maintain all the leverage, even with Brown publicly expressing his desire to play elsewhere. The Ravens, by Brown’s own account, have been amenable to his request and have maintained a positive relationship throughout this process, but this is in essence them doing him a big favor. Brown only has three accrued seasons in the NFL, meaning that if he were to hold out from training camp he would not accrue the fourth season required to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2021 season. This would make him a restricted free agent subject to a one-year tender offer well below his market value. 

Brown was voted onto the original ballot for the 2020 Pro Bowl, which earned him a nice raise to his base salary in his fourth and final season of his rookie contract in 2021. This pay raise for rookies in the final year of their contract is called the Proven Performance Escalator, which you can read about on Over the Cap here.

This means Brown will have a $3.384 million salary and cap hit for an acquiring team in a trade. Given that significant draft capital will be required to land Brown, odds are whichever team ends up making the deal will look to extend him as their left tackle of the future either this offseason or immediately following the 2021 campaign. 

After the Chiefs’ failures to keep the Buccaneers out of Patrick Mahomes’ face for all to see Sunday, there might be more of a premium placed on the position in the 2021 offseason. Given the Ravens are keenly aware of this development, coupled with their aforementioned leverage in this situation, they will need to be blown away with a great offer to part ways with a young, blue-chip tackle. 

Baltimore will undoubtedly be worse off in 2021 with the loss of a great young bookend on their offensive line — a unit that already lost a star left guard of 13 seasons in Marshal Yanda following the 2019 season. For these reasons, expect the compensation package here to be significant. We wouldn’t expect something at the level of the Laremy Tunsil haul the Miami Dolphins received from the Houston Texans (which included two first-round picks), but a first-round pick could be on the table.

Working in Brown's and the Ravens' favor is that a robust market should absolutely develop for a potential starting left tackle. Five teams that are in dire need of a blindside protector all happen to be top 10 in projected 2021 cap space: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Football Team, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

The good news for Baltimore is that the 2021 NFL Draft appears to have an elite crop of offensive tackle talent, including several top-end players that already play on the right side. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, among others, could be the solution for the Ravens come April. 

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.

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