Orlando Brown Jr.

Bears Free Agency Preview: Will Ryan Poles break the bank on Orlando Brown Jr.?

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. avoided the franchise tag and will hit free agency once the 2023 negotiation window opens on March 13. The Chicago Bears’ need for an offensive tackle and their league-best spending power makes him a logical target as a big-ticket signing for general manager Ryan Poles.

There’s been a suggestion on Twitter that Brown isn’t a good fit for the Bears offense, that he isn’t athletic enough to function in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme, and that his physical profile doesn’t match what Poles looks for in offensive linemen. Those suggestions have merit, but what can’t be ignored is Brown’s history of success in the NFL. He’s a very good left tackle — which is hard to find — who’s always been underrated because of his underwhelming athletic traits.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an offensive tackle who’s more consistent than Brown. Check out his season grades (overall) from Pro Football Focus since his rookie year in Baltimore:

2018: 68.6
2019: 73.6
2020: 77.8
2021: 75.4
2022: 75.4

Orlando Brown Jr. has been especially good as a pass blocker. He’s protected Patrick Mahomes’ blindside for the last two years, scoring a 74.4 (2021) and 76.8 (2022) in pass protection from PFF.

Brown began his career as a right tackle before moving to the left side in 2020. He initiated his position change, likely because of the higher payday left tackles traditionally receive. But he does have extensive experience on the right side, which makes him even more appealing for the Chicago Bears. If the Bears are set on keeping Braxton Jones at left tackle, Brown can play on the right side.

Orlando Brown will get paid regardless of where he plays in 2023. According to Spotrac, his projected market value is $22.4 million per year. They predict he’ll get a five-year, $112.1 million contract in free agency.

Sure, that’s a lot of cash. But the Chicago Bears can pay it. And if the goal is to build around QB Justin Fields this offseason, Brown is a good start.

Is he an uber-athlete? No. Does he make playing left tackle look pretty? No. But is he an effective and nasty bookend who will keep Justin Fields upright? Yes. And that’s the ultimate goal.

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