Ravens prioritize future by trading Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City

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We knew the Ravens weren’t going to re-sign offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. after the 2021 season. 

The two-time Pro Bowl selection wanted to be traded to a team that would play him at left tackle, which wasn’t happening in Baltimore after Ronnie Stanley signed a five-year, $98.75 million extension last October. Rather than keeping Brown for one more season and settling for what would have likely been a 2023 third-round compensatory pick — assuming no major injury, holdout, or decline in play from a potentially disgruntled player — general manager Eric DeCosta prioritized his long-term hypothetical value by sending Brown, his 2021 second-round pick (58th overall), and a 2022 sixth-round selection to the Chiefs for a 2021 first-round pick (31st overall), a 2021 third-round choice (94th overall), a 2021 fourth-rounder (136th overall), and a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft.

(The Orlando Brown Jr. trade with Kansas City is pending the passing of a physical.)

Depending on which draft trade chart you reference with many viewing the popular Jimmy Johnson edition as outdated, the net value the Ravens gained for their 2018 third-round pick ranges somewhere between a late first-round pick and a mid-range second-round selection. For what it’s worth, the Johnson chart equates the net value — which doesn’t include the swap of 2022 picks — to roughly the 46th overall pick of the draft for the fourth-year offensive tackle.

That value sounds reasonable in a vacuum, but it’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens needed more to justify pulling the trigger on the trade ahead of a campaign in which anything short of a Super Bowl will be viewed as a disappointment. There’s also the matter of making the team they’ve been chasing for three years better in the short term, which shouldn’t be overlooked even if that’s a more archaic way of viewing a trade between AFC contenders. 

A Baltimore roster that already had perceived needs at outside linebacker, wide receiver, and on the interior offensive line just opened a significant hole at right tackle. And while the potential free-agent addition of former Pittsburgh offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva would provide solid insurance at both tackle spots — remember veteran James Hurst began Brown’s rookie season as the starter at right tackle — a 32-year-old who isn’t regarded as a great run blocker can’t be viewed as anything but a downgrade from Brown. That Stanley is returning from a serious ankle injury that required two surgeries creates an even more unsettling feeling at the moment.

No matter how you slice it, Brown playing right tackle and backing up left tackle — even for one season — is still worth plenty to a Super Bowl contender. 

Of course, the Ravens now have two late first-round picks, two late third-round picks, and two late fourth-round picks to address those needs and other positions of interest in next week’s draft. It will be interesting to see how DeCosta approaches the 27th and 31st overall selections without another pick until 94th overall, but the fifth-year team option for first-round choices is always important to consider as we saw when the Ravens traded into the final spot of the 2018 first round to select future MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

As is always the case when you deal a known commodity — Brown’s 2021 play is the surest bet of all assets included in Friday’s deal — for hypothetical long-term value, this deal will be judged on what DeCosta and the Ravens ultimately do with those picks. Finding a suitable replacement at right tackle for the next four years would make the trade a smashing success, but the right guy doesn’t always fall to you or develop how you anticipate, regardless of the strong reputation of this offensive tackle draft class.

Remember, everyone loves their draft picks until learning they’ve taken the next Matt Elam or Breshad Perriman. 

Though time will tell how this trade works out for both AFC heavyweights, DeCosta trading away a two-time Pro Bowl selection from an offensive line that had its issues last year should dispel any lingering perception that the Ravens are trying to maximize a closing Super Bowl “window” before giving Jackson a lucrative nine-figure extension at some point in the near future. Unlike the Chiefs surrendering picks for Brown in a contract year, this certainly isn’t a move signaling Baltimore is “going for it” in 2021 in the way you might have interpreted the Yannick Ngakoue rental last October.

Yes, the Ravens prioritized the future by trading a Pro Bowl talent they weren’t going to retain beyond the upcoming season. We’ll see how that impacts their Super Bowl chances for 2021 — and beyond.

Below is the Ravens’ current slate of picks for next week’s draft:

First round — 27th overall
First round — 31st overall
Third round — 94th overall
Third round — 104th overall
Fourth round — 131st overall
Fourth round — 136th overall
Fifth round — 171st overall
Fifth round — 184th overall
Sixth round — 210th overall