The Kansas City Chiefs' season reached a shocking and disappointing end following Sunday's 27-24 overtime defeat to surging Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs held a convincing 21-3 lead late in the second quarter before witnessing the Bengals round off 24 consecutive points to take a fourth-quarter advantage. A last-second Harrison Butker field goal sent the thrilling contest to overtime, where the Chiefs received possession first as we appeared destined for yet another great debate regarding today's overtime rules. The Bengals defense did what the Buffalo Bills couldn't by stopping Patrick Mahomes from scoring, received the ball back and promptly advanced to Super Bowl LVI on an Evan McPherson game-winning field goal. The Chiefs now enter a critical offseason prior to Super Bowl kickoff weekend, something they haven't done in two years. General manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid now turn their attention to the NFL draft and free agency periods. The Chiefs are currently in decent standing against the cap given their star power, but certain offseason decisions loom especially large as the Chiefs are slated to possess a modest $15.4 million in cap space, via Spotrac. The largest decision the Chiefs must make this offseason centers around left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who the team acquired via a blockbuster trade that saw the Chiefs part with multiple draft picks, including last year’s first-round selection. The Chiefs are extremely unlikely to allow Brown to walk in free agency after making such an investment. The question now is whether Brown will be signed to a long-term extension in the offseason or will he be another victim of the unpopular franchise tag? Ian Rapoport has reported that Brown will likely receive the tag, which would pay him roughly $16.5 million in 2022. Working out the initial parameters of a long-term deal with a player of Brown's talent and importance always qualifies as a difficult negotiation-based exercise. With the tag serving as a one-year solution before the Chiefs and Brown eventually reach an inevitable long-term agreement, Brown's entire salary would be guaranteed for 2022, and his cap hit number would reflect the entirety of that annual salary. It somewhat reflects a less-than-ideal scenario given the Chiefs' modest amount of cap space, paired with other areas of offseason focus. Several key Chiefs players are set to hit free agency in addition to Brown, including elite safety Tyrann Matiheu, veteran pass rusher Melvin Ingram, the team's top cover-corner in Charvarius Ward, right tackle Mike Remmers, and depth receiver Byron Pringle just to name a few. This is precisely why agreeing on a long-term extension with Brown that would allow the Chiefs to spread out his cap to future years while significantly lowering his cap hit for 2022 would represent the best avenue of business for Veach and Reid. Lowering Brown’s immediate cap hit via a long-term deal may allow the Chiefs to retain an extra player or two. The Chiefs essentially committed to Brown as their left tackle of the future when they dealt a plethora of future draft capital in order to acquire his services. Brown will serve as Mahomes' blindside protector for years to come. Delaying the inevitable by slapping Brown with an expensive one-year franchise tag seems like a rather useless exercise to partake in given their overall lack of leverage. Kansas City's salary cap situation means they'll have to make some difficult decisions regarding which free agents to retain and which to let walk, and the latter may include the departures of players such as Mathieu, Ingram and Remmers. When it comes to Brown, Veach needs to just rip the bandaid off.
- May 23, 2022
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