Harbaugh on Ravens trading Brown to Kansas City: “You’ve got to do what’s best for your team”

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The Boston Red Sox exorcised the “Curse of the Bambino” nearly 17 years ago, but its effects linger in those times we discuss rivals making trades with one another. 

That’s why some bristled when the Ravens traded two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending AFC champion whose offensive line deficiencies doomed their chances in Super Bowl LV in February. A traditional school of thought is to not make trades that will help a divisional foe or, in this case, the class of the AFC that the Ravens have been chasing since electrifying quarterback Lamar Jackson arrived on the scene in 2018. However, deliberately restricting the pool of potential trade partners isn’t the best way to maximize a return, leading one to conclude such thinking should only really apply as a tiebreaker when weighing similar trade offers.

Speaking on “The Rich Eisen Show” earlier this week, head coach John Harbaugh didn’t sound like someone with any concern of a potential “Curse of Zeus” after Baltimore sent Brown, its 2021 second-round pick, and a 2022 sixth-round selection to the Chiefs in exchange for the 31st, 94th, and 136th overall picks in this week’s draft as well as a 2022 fifth-round selection. The Ravens merely wanted to maximize their potential future value for a high-quality player scheduled to become a free agent after 2021, regardless of the perception that they must go through Kansas City to take the next step after back-to-back postseason exits in the divisional round.

“I don’t think you really have those choices all the time,” Harbaugh said. “You’ve got to do what’s best for your team going forward. I want to think more about our team than other teams. We’ll play whoever we play. We’re not going to be afraid of anybody — really any team or any player. We’ll look forward to playing whoever we play.

“For what they offered us, it was the best offer we got. It allows us to build our team the way we want — the best way we can — and that’s what you roll with.”

That’s not to suggest an organization doesn’t consider its toughest opponents when making moves to put together the roster. Many interpreted general manager Eric DeCosta acquiring edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue last October as a trade with a clear focus on a potential January showdown with the Chiefs after Baltimore’s blitz-heavy pass rush proved punchless in the Week 3 home loss to Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.

The Ravens may not be all that worried about Brown improving the Chiefs’ offensive line, but Harbaugh acknowledged the obvious short-term challenge for a team that made clear its desire to improve the offensive line at the start of the offseason. Even with the March signing of veteran right guard Kevin Zeitler, that objective became more difficult with the void created at right tackle by Brown’s departure.

“I feel like we’ve just got to find a way to replace Orlando this year, which we’ll find a way to do,” Harbaugh said. “That’ll be a place hopefully where he can do well long term for his career. Unfortunately, we’ll have to play against him, but we play against everybody in the National Football League. When you trade a guy, that’s always part of the deal.”

In other news that fell into the common sense department after the historic start to his NFL career, Harbaugh confirmed to Eisen that the Ravens would pick up Jackson’s fifth-year option scheduled to pay the 24-year-old star quarterback $23.106 million guaranteed for the 2022 season.

“Can I make that guarantee right now on your show?” Harbaugh said. “We’ll fill the vacuum up right now. His fifth-year option will be picked up. Guarantee it.”