What happens if the Kansas City Chiefs can’t re-sign LT Brown – and how will it impact the draft?

2022 NFL Draft Kansas City Chiefs

The Orlando Brown Jr. trade will be dissected for years to come in Kansas City.

The Chiefs needed to revamp its offensive line in the offseason, and Brown was the centerpiece of the makeover. But, as is always the case when trading for a young Pro Bowler, the move required a lot of draft capital.

Kansas City traded its first-round pick this year (No. 31 overall Edge Odafe Oweh), third-round pick (Ben Cleveland), and a fourth-round pick to Baltimore (which wound up being traded to Arizona for CB Marco Wilson-136). The team also gave up a 2022 fifth-round pick.

In exchange, Kansas City received Baltimore’s second-round pick, which the Chiefs used to draft linebacker Nick Bolton, and the 25-year-old Brown, a two-time Pro Bowler. Kansas City will also receive a sixth-round pick in the 2022 draft from Baltimore.

That left Kansas City with six draft picks this year. Four of those picks play. Three of them are among the league’s best rookies:

  • Bolton leads the Chiefs with 43 tackles.
  • Center Creed Humphrey (2nd-63) and guard Trey Smith (6-226) have been among the league’s best rookies, regardless of position.

And yet, Kansas City had to eke out a win over the hapless Giants Monday night to break-even for the season at 4-4.

No doubt, quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ struggles this year has been among the main reasons for the team’s struggles. But the “why” doesn’t matter when you look past this season. It’s the “what now” that should worry Chiefs fans.

Start with the Brown trade.

On the surface, the additions of Brown and Bolton are solid. Bolton has received 73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, fourth-highest among Chiefs defenders. And Brown has played better of late after a relatively slow start.

You can say the same for the offensive line in general. Kansas City allowed just seven pressures and no sacks against the Giants, according to Pro Football Focus, which gave the Chiefs’ OL an 88.1 pass-blocking grade (upon first review), the week’s second-highest grade. Brown and RT Lucas Niang didn’t allow a pressure, while Humphrey allowed just one.

The improved play of the OL, along with the eventual return of RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (MCL injury), should give fans reason to believe the Chiefs can still make a Super Bowl run.

But troubles could be looming, starting with the uncertain status of Brown.

Many assumed Kansas City wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on the Brown trade if the team wasn’t absolutely certain it would/could re-sign the impending unrestricted free agent.

Now? Brown’s status beyond this season is still unknown. From FanSided’s ArrowheadAddict: “As of now, there haven’t been any whispers of an extension for Brown. Given he’s in the final year of his rookie contract and the team gave up a boat-load of capital to acquire him, it was nearly a certainty the Chiefs would find a way to retain him. Since he hasn’t played at an elite level and the Chiefs have a number of other sticky contract situations, I’m no longer certain that’s the case.”

Then, on the right side, 2020 third-round pick Lucas Niang was expected to start but had to battle with 32-year-old journeyman Mike Remmers to secure the spot. In other words, Niang’s hold on the starting RT job is tenuous, at best. And Remmers will also be an UFA at the end of the season.

So, while the team is solid along the interior of its line, it’s possible that Kansas City will be looking to upgrade both of its tackle positions in the offseason.

Meanwhile, OT Liam Eichenberg (42), OT/G Jackson Carman (46) and OT Sam Cosmi (51) – all starters or major contributors — were among the players who were drafted after Oweh at pick No. 31. Oweh has had a major impact with 14 tackles, 8 QB hits, 3 TFLs, 2 FFs and 3 sacks for Baltimore.

And don’t forget about the third round, which was traded away as part of the Brown trade. Ben Cleveland, currently injured, was rotating with Ben Powers at the starting left guard position for Baltimore. And on defense, CB Elijah Molden, who went six picks after Cleveland, has 27 tackles, 2 PDs, 1 FF and 1 INT as a part-time starter for Tennessee. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, who was drafted one pick after Molden, started one of the two games he played in before suffering an injury. Linebacker Ernest Jones (pick No. 103), CB Brandon Stephens (104) and LB Baron Browning (105) have all received playing time for their respective teams.

Would the team be better this season with any combination of those players?

That’s hard to say – but the Brown trade will be a bitter pill to swallow if the team can’t resign him and any of those other players excel for other teams.

Here’s a look at five players the Chiefs might be looking at in the 2022 NFL draft:

Round 1: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

In an ideal scenario, ex-Minnesota first-rounder Mike Hughes and ex-Giants first-rounder Deandre Baker would be starting for the Chiefs. Then again, there’s a reason why both have the word “ex” in front of their names.

Currently, L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton start at outside CB, although Hughes (about 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps) gets more playing time than Fenton (46 percent). Hughes, though, is a free agent at the end of the season, as is Charvarius Ward (about 45 percent of the snaps).

In other words, expect the Chiefs to draft a CB relatively high – and landing Elam in the first round would present great value. Elam, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound junior, is widely considered one of the top 5 CBs in the draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranks Elam as the third-best at his position and recently listed him as his No. 24 overall prospect. From Kiper: “Elam sprained his knee earlier this season and missed a few games, but he has been good when he has played. His 2020 tape is inconsistent — he got beat for a couple long touchdowns — but in five games in 2021 he has allowed just 42 receiving yards as the closest defender in coverage. That’s an average of 3.5 yards per attempt in his direction. Elam has long arms and good instincts; he has six career picks. He can play press coverage and lock up wideouts.”

Round 2: OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington

Will Kansas City be able to re-sign Orlando Brown Jr.? And does it want to? Is 2020 third-round pick Lucas Niang the long-term answer at RT? And what will happen to free-agent-to-be Remmers?

That’s a lot of questions to answer, but the addition of Kirkland – or any other OT taken in the first- or second-round – would at least give the team options it doesn’t currently have.

The 6-foot-7, 310-pound redshirt junior originally started out as a guard, where he started 25 games his first two seasons. Kirkland then garnered first-team All-Pac 12 honors when he switched over to LT last season, where he started every game. Several publications list Kirkland as a first-rounder, but he’s more likely to be taken somewhere in the second- or third-round, especially after missing time recently with an undisclosed injury. Kiper lists him as his seventh-best OT, while Pro Football Network lists him as the 10th-best, touting his hands and “mauler mentality.” PFN also said Kirkland needs to work on his lower body and his ability to absorb power while cleaning up some of his “lateral stiffness.” From PFN: “Against more athletic technicians in the NFL, Kirkland may have a tough time — and his stiffness could lead him to slide inside to guard. However, while Kirkland’s upside is somewhat limited, the Washington offensive lineman has a high-floor projection. Thus, he could quickly earn a role at the professional level.”

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