2022 NFL Free Agency: Players set to break the bank

2022 NFL Free Agency - Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during their football game Sunday, January 2, 2022, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvsvikings 0102220977djp
2022 NFL Free Agency - Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during their football game Sunday, January 2, 2022, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvsvikings 0102220977djp /
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2022 NFL Free Agency
2022 NFL Free Agency: Orlando Brown #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs prepares to block Clelin Ferrell #99 of the Las Vegas Raiders during the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

2022 NFL Free Agency: LT — Orlando Brown Jr.

Remember when everybody thought Baby Zeus was going to be a bust after a dreadful showing at the 2018 NFL Combine? Three Pro Bowls later, that seems like a lifetime ago.

The former Baltimore Raven’s desire to stick at left tackle was granted in 2021, as he was traded from Baltimore to Kansas City, going from one MVP QB (Lamar Jackson) to the next (Patrick Mahomes). All he does is fill gaps and block who’s in front of him — in each of his four seasons, Brown has had a PFF grade at 67.8 or higher.

But in each of the past three years, Brown’s rating has been at 72.0 or higher, including a 75.2 rating in ’21 after going back to LT full-time, which he did for the Ravens’ final 11 games in 2020 (including the playoffs). Brown has been so strong in the trenches, he hasn’t been called for more than one holding penalty in each of those latest three seasons.

So where does he land? From all accounts, it seems like Brown is expected to come back to KC. But the question is, what does his deal look like?

Contract prediction: 5 years/$115 million

Aside from Terron Armstead, no other LT really compares to Brown Jr. on the open market.

Armstead (30) and Duane Brown (36) are both great players, but neither is approaching their prime like Baby Zeus (25). The Chiefs are currently ranked 18th overall in the NFL in terms of salary cap, but they can restructure some deals to open up some money, particularly with players like Frank Clark ($26.3 million cap hit) and they’ve already released Anthony Hitchens ($12.6 million cap hit) to open up their checkbook.

I went with that length of years and worth for this deal because of several factors. First, the five years would take the deal through the 2026 season — the season before Mahomes’ mammoth contract strikes with a $59 million cap hit. That ’26 season will also end with Brown being the ripe old age of 30.

As for the money, I believe Brown will be slotted at $23 million per year in salary, which would put him above Laremy Tunsil ($22 million), have him tied with David Bakhtiari ($23 million), and right behind Trent Williams ($23.01 million). Williams is the gold standard at LT, let alone for all o-linemen, but Brown has a case for a bigger deal than Bakhtiari.

As great as the Packers LT is, he’s only played in 13 games since the start of 2020. Meanwhile, Brown has missed just one game in four NFL seasons. That kind of consistency is the type of thing that makes it easier for franchises to hand out big money.