If you have an earlier bedtime, you might have heard as you woke up: the Cincinnati Bengals made a splash in free agency by signing offensive tackle Orlando Brown, Jr to a four-year, $64 Million contract.
Brown comes over from the Kansas City Chiefs where he was a two-time Pro Bowl tackle and won Super Bowl LVII. Before that, he anchored the left side of the Baltimore Ravens for three years, earning Pro Bowl honors in two. The Bengals, however, worked to upgrade an offensive line before last year but still allowed Joe Burrow to get sacked 51 times en route to an AFC Championship loss to Brown’s Chiefs. The interior of the offensive line was solid, but both tackles ended up missing time down the stretch with injuries.
What Orlando Brown, Jr. Means to the Bengals
These Ain’t Your Daddy’s Bungles
There was a feeling heading into Wednesday night that the old Bengals were back. Mike Brown was penny-pinching and they were planning on just re-tooling via the draft and raking in those compensatory picks. Vonn Bell, Jessie Bates, Hayden Hurst, and Samaje Perine all got paid elsewhere. Germaine Pratt returning was a surprise, but there was this feeling of “oh, here we go again, the Bengals are going to be cheap.”
Not so fast, my friend!
Just spoke to new #Bengals LT Orlando Brown Jr.: "I'm super thankful for the opportunity to carry on my father's legacy and be a left tackle. It was important to be able to play that position and play for a winning team and a winning quarterback. Who Dey!"
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 16, 2023
The Bengals are absolutely going to need to change how they do contracts in the near future with Burrow’s and Tee Higgins‘ extensions looming. They’re going to demand guaranteed money. It sure seemed like that guaranteed money and/or contract length was what drove the aforementioned Bengals away. And then, Duke Tobin and company pulled off this whopper of a deal.
The contract is four years for a grand total of $64 Million. $31 Million of that is due at signing! For a franchise often described as cheap setting the bar and inking the largest signing bonus for an offensive lineman in history is huge. It shows that the Bengals have come to play with the big boys for all premium positions, not just quarterback (remember, the Bengals made Carson Palmer the highest-paid player in history at that point).
Normally, the Bengals like to structure contracts with few actual guarantees, though they make easily-attainable benchmarks. Not this time. For a massive deal like this, the Bengals front office made it so that Brown’s cap hit for 2023 is just $8 Million.
Joey Franchise is Priority
Brown is far and away the top lineman on this offensive line and will serve as a massive upgrade over Jonah Williams, who is expected to flip to the right side once he recovers from his knee injury. Last year, Brown was credited with four sacks and earned a 76.8 pass-blocking grade and 68.8 run-blocking grade.
For reference, Williams (according to PFF) allowed 12 sacks and earned a 62.8 pass-blocking grade and 51.0 run-blocking grade. Collins, on the other hand, allowed five and scored 44.2 and 73.5. Due to the fact that he suffered that ACL injury so late in the year, paired with whatever ailments he was battling all year, it is unclear if Collins is in the plans moving forward.
Orlando Brown's performance in the Super Bowl showed off everything that he will bring to Cincy.
Elite strength in the run game, high end anchor and haymaker like punch in pass pro, and great processing to pass off stunts.
He's the best OT Cincinnati has had since Whit. pic.twitter.com/muu1CHYHJH
— mike (@bengals_sans) March 16, 2023
Brown comes to Cincinnati after blocking for Patrick Mahomes. He goes from one elite talent to another. Burrow can rest soundly knowing that his blindside is likely the most secure it’s been in his entire career. It’s not too outlandish to say that Brown is the best left tackle the Bengals have employed since Andrew Whitworth.
Protecting Burrow will be the key to finally hoisting the Lombardi. The Bengals are 10-0 when Burrow is sacked once or less (aside from the injury game). Cincinnati would love it if more games could go by where Burrow leaves with a clean jersey.
BPA is Still the Move in the Draft
With the Bengals picking at 28 in the 2023 NFL Draft, Cincinnati will be drafting the best player available. Overall, the roster is still in a good spot and you can expect that they will pick up a few cheap veteran stop-gaps.
While not many called Cincinnati picking a safety in the first round (we did, though), Dax Hill was the best player available last year and it just so happened that getting younger at safety. This year, it’s no different.
While the offensive line seems to be set and ready to roll for 2023, the Bengals cannot go into the draft with the idea that they absolutely have to draft a certain position. If a player is there at 28, regardless of position, Cincinnati has to pull the trigger on the player atop their board.
If a Dawand Jones-type is there at 28 and he is their BPA, he will be the pick.
Why bother using a top pick on a position that’s seemingly taken care of? Depth.
The Bengals offensive line depth is an issue, as we saw last year. It’s saying something when a bad offensive line gets exponentially worse with an injury. Jackson Carman was not as good as Jonah Williams. Hakeem Adeniji was not as good as Le’el Collins. No matter how well or poorly the starting tackles played, there is a significant step down.
For 2024 and beyond, who knows who that right tackle will be? Collins may be a cap casualty this year. Williams may not be brought back. Drafting their replacement now to learn the system would behoove the Bengals. For a prospect who could be considered raw but has great traits (as Dawand Jones does), they could refine the player so, in year two, they can step in and immediately contribute.
Orlando Brown, Jr. is ready to win another ring. He’s certainly good enough to help the Bengals get to that level. They’re supposed to compete for it all again in 2023, perhaps the signing of Brown is what it takes.
Main Image: Michael Chow/The Republic