With no NFL Scouting Combine this year due to COVID, the period of the offseason between the Super bowl and the start of free agency has been especially quiet, barring a few notable quarterback trades.
While the Baltimore Ravens are set with a former league MVP in Lamar Jackson under center they’ve stayed relevant in the offseason headlines because their starting right tackle, Orlando Brown Jr.
He wants to live out his father’s dream of him playing on the blindside and has formally requested a trade. The Ravens have obliged, granting him permission to seek said trade.
Brown Jr. is a two-time Pro Bowler who established himself as one of the best right tackles in the league before proving that he could also play his natural position on the left side at a high level in the pros. He did so during the second half of the season after LT Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury days after signing a lucrative extension.
Prior to getting drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2018 draft, Brown Jr. had exclusively played left tackle since high school and became an All-American at the University of Oklahoma where he was a three-year starter.
There has been endless speculation in the weeks that have followed on where and what he would be traded to and for since he made his demands and desires abundantly clear on social media. He cited that money is not a part of the equation and that switching positions is the sole reason to play elsewhere.
However, what players like himself and Houston Texans’ quarterback DeShaun Watson have to understand is that they are too valuable of proven commodities for their teams to be willing to part with because they are unhappy playing with the team—or out of position—in Zeus Jr.’s case.
Unlike the Texans, the Ravens are prime contenders and only need a few more tweaks and additions to cross the championship threshold. Trading him would be a massive subtraction from an offensive line that team brass has openly expressed that they want to reinforce this offseason and it would be completely counterproductive to their prime objective.
If he doesn’t want to be one of the young cornerstone pillars of the franchise moving forward then that is while unfortunate, makes their extension priority list of the terrific 2018 draft class shorter since he no longer wants to be a part of the team.
Replacing a player of Brown Jr.’s caliber is much easier said than done. Even with what many believe is a strong incoming class of offensive line that is particularly deep at tackle, there is no guarantee they will come away with a player on par with a three-year NFL starter that can dominate at either bookend.
A team like the Ravens with Super bowl aspirations and a great mix of young and veteran talent might not be willing to oblige Brown Jr.’s request, though they’ve done so formally. But if they believe it would hurt rather than help their chances of winning it all in 2021, he may be sticking around.
To ensure they get the maximum value of his and several other players currently playing at a high level on inexpensive rookie contracts, holding onto him for at least another year is more logical than shipping him away a year too early.
There’s also the factor of Stanley’s healthy to take into consideration. He will be coming off a serious injury and while Head Coach John Harbaugh said that he and other injured players are on track to be available for the start of training camp and the season opener, holding on to a Pro Bowl insurance policy at one of the most important positions in the sport is worth more than a draft pick that may or may not turn into an immediate impact player.
Passing up on a haul this offseason that could potentially include multiple high picks and perhaps even a player at another position of need would be a tough pill for some fans to swallow.
However, that is a gamble that the Ravens might not be willing to take because of the dire straits that the offense would be in without a proper replacement on the right side or if Stanley were to suffer a setback in his rehab or—god forbid—have to miss anytime during the 2021 regular/postseason.
For those believing that the team should just strike a deal while the iron is hot, the team could franchise tag Brown Jr. next offseason. General Manager Eric DeCosta could then decide to trade him for a similar or greater haul than they could’ve gotten this year since it is yet to be seen what the 2022 free-agent market or draft class will look like at the tackle position.
The bottom line is that winning teams sometimes have championship windows that shrink with the more money that has to be paid to their young talent coming down the pipeline. So, they have to hold on to their best players playing on cheap deals for as long as they possibly can to give the franchise its best shot at achieving the ultimate goal.