Why the Orlando Brown trade is the rare deal where both sides win

On Friday, the Baltimore Ravens shipped Pro Bowl offensive lineman Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs for a head-spinning exchange of draft picks that essentially ends with the Ravens gaining an extra first-rounder.

When the two (arguably) best teams in football make a deal, the rest of the NFL takes notice. But if everything works out for both parties involved, the Ravens and Chiefs could end up as virtual locks to play each other in the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs addressed their biggest free agency need, and the Ravens got a solid return for a player who publicly requested a trade.

Let’s take a look at the Chiefs. In the Super Bowl, Kansas City put forth the worst postseason offensive line performance I’ve seen in my lifetime. They made Jason Pierre-Paul look like Aaron Donald, and gave Patrick Mahomes — on average — .04 seconds to throw the football (give or take a few milliseconds). Mahomes is good at extending plays, but even he can’t do it if he’s lying on his back.

Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs have spent free agency upgrading the line. Brown is the third former All-Pro they’ve signed in the past two months. In a stunning move, they released former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher in March. They then coaxed Joe Thuney away from the Patriots and brought Kyle Long out of retirement. 

With the trade, the Chiefs are once again the consensus favorites to win the Super Bowl. Brown gives them the talent to match up with the intimidating defensive lines of NFC powerhouses like the Buccaneers and Rams.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are now in prime position to address their biggest need—wide receiver—in a draft with a historic amount of talent at the position. Last year, the Ravens led the league in rushing yards but finished dead last in passing yards. 

Just letting Lamar Jackson run it every play actually seems to be working pretty well, but eventually they’ll need to throw the ball if they want to make a deep run in January. Marquise Brown is a talented receiver, but fits better as a speedy No. 2 option to complement a true gamechanger.

Baltimore now holds picks Nos. 27 and 31, giving them an opportunity to draft a late-round wideout like Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore while still upgrading on defense. Or, as I expect them to, they could package both picks to trade up and draft Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith. 

The Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and the New York Giants at No. 11 have expressed a willingness to move back in the first round. Both need an edge rusher and an offensive lineman, and solid prospects like Azeez Ojuilar and Alex Leatherwood may be available where the Ravens are picking.

With Jackson still on his rookie contract for two more years, landing Waddle or Smith is the sort of all-in move that could help the Ravens capitalize on their championship window.

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