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The Orlando Brown Jr. trade could be a defining moment for Eric DeCosta’s tenure as GM

The bold move could potentially set the Ravens up for greater success or help the Chiefs stay on top of the AFC.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens and General Manager Eric DeCosta were going to need quite the haul to even consider obliging the request of Orlando Brown Jr. to get traded to another team — where he could live out his dream of playing left tackle in the NFL.

While it may not have been the Top-15 pick and veteran skill position player package that some optimistic fans of the franchise were hoping for, they were able to get a nice return in exchange for the 2018 third-round pick in a blockbuster trade on Friday afternoon.

However, in doing so, they not only left a massive two-time Pro Bowler-sized hole at right tackle on their starting offensive line, but they helped their arch-rival solidify theirs by agreeing to deal Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs have been the cream of the crop and the most dominant team over the past three seasons. Not just in the AFC, but in the entire league. They are fresh off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Over that span, they are 3-0 against the Ravens with all three games occurring in the regular season.

The Ravens have been arguably just as dominant in the regular season since Jackson became the full-time starter midway through his rookie year. However, they haven’t had nearly the same amount of success come January. They have a pedestrian 1-3 postseason record since ending a three-year playoff hiatus from 2015-2017.

Kansas City tore through the AFC playoff bracket in each of the last two seasons. Just when it seemed as if they were destined to win it all for the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off a stunning upset.

With their 31-9 victory over the Chiefs this past February, where they bruised and battered former league MVP and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes from start to finish, the Buccaneers proved that Kansas City isn’t as invincible as once believed. The Buccaneers used their potent pass rush to expose a Kansas City offensive line that had been ravaged by injuries throughout the year, particularly at tackle where they were without both Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.

During the early portion of the offseason before the new league year began, the Chiefs released a pair of veteran bookend tackles and had two glaring holes on the perimeter of their starting five. They also let both Austin Reiter and Andrew Wyllie walk in free agency.

At last — the moment had arrived where it seemed like the AFC juggernauts were vulnerable and could be caught up to in hierarchy of the conference. If a top contender like the Ravens or Buffalo Bills were able bring in some key veteran free agents followed by having a strong draft class, perhaps they could even be surpassed.

Kansas City was able to upgrade the interior of their offensive line with the acquisition of Austin Blythe and prized veteran Joe Thuney in free agency. They also signed Kyle Long out of retirement and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is expected to return after he opted out of the 2020 season to serve on the front lines against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chiefs were still in need of a new blindside protector for their $500M quarterback and another quality tackle to play opposite of him. Thanks to DeCosta and Co., they were able to acquire a young ascending perennial Pro Bowler to be their franchise left tackle with the draft less than a week away. Now, they have a pair of second-round picks in a deep tackle class to find their other bookend.

The likelihood that Kansas City General Manager Brett Veach was going to be able to land a tackle of Brown Jr.’s caliber at the bottom of the first round next week was very low. With the trade, he was essentially able to trade back 27 spots in the draft, keep his own team’s second-rounder, and only part with some middle round capital to land a proven commodity at a premium position.

While the Ravens were able to get adequate compensation for a player that was going to be out the door after this upcoming season anyways, the risk of steepening the one hurdle that they have yet to clear might ultimately not be worth the reward.

Even if they are able to knock their 2021 draft out of the park with a haul of first-year immediate contributors, that might not be enough to usurp the two-time defending conference champions. Making the rich even richer only makes sense when you’re the biggest benefactor or at least trading the semi-elite asset to the opposing conference. Then, the only time you’d see him would be in a non-conference regular-season game, an exhibition bout in the preseason, or the Super Bowl.

I’d equate the Ravens giving Mahomes and the Chiefs exactly what they need to a character from Dragon Ball Super giving a powerful being from an opposing universe a power/health-boosting senzu bean. Moreover, in the tournament of power and with the fate of their universe at stake — just when it seemed like they gained a slight upper hand or were at least on equal footing.

Context from Dragon Ball Z Kai

I have the utmost faith in Ravens and DeCosta to construct a roster and field a team that can contend for a championship this fall and going forward. Although, there is a stark difference between contending and being able to challenge for both conference and league supremacy.

Helping the current top dog on your side of the bracket seems counterproductive even if DeCosta can get a tremendous return for the Ravens’ original investment. I am not suggesting that this trade could be as pivotal for the organization as selecting the next franchise quarterback, which they don’t have to worry about for quite a while thanks to his predecessor picking Lamar Jackson with his final first-round selection.

However, if the Chiefs wind up in the Super Bowl for the third straight year and the Ravens don’t at least make it to the conference title game, this move has the potential to be a truly defining moment for DeCosta in his tenure as the Ravens head front office executive. Why? Because he will have provided another cornerstone pillar to an already well-built roster.

The Ravens now have two first-round picks in the same year for just the fifth time in team history. The other four occasions resulted in them landing franchise cornerstones with at least one of the selections and key contributors with the others.

The first instance was in the inaugural year of the franchise and they wound up with a pair of first-ballot Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis Jonathan Ogden. That’s a tall order for DeCosta to fill heading into his third draft at the helm. If he can at least hit on one of those top picks at a premium position, though, it would make helping the Chiefs get better not as tough of a pill to swallow and be the right kind of defining moment for his career.