Nowadays, in the sports media world, one simple tweet can turn multiple heads within the industry. Two weeks ago, Baltimore Ravens LEFT tackle Orlando Brown Jr. did just that.
What might this mean for the Bills? For starters, Brown could very much be a possible trade target for Buffalo. Tackle Daryl Williams is a free agent and is likely seeking big money this offseason. With linebacker Matt Milano and guard Jon Feliciano being higher on Brandon Beane’s to-do list, Williams may just take his talents elsewhere, leaving a spot to be filled by Brown. However, he is just as desirable a commodity for a number of other teams, especially teams like the Miami Dolphins or the New York Jets. Let’s look at how an Orlando Brown Jr. trade might affect the Bills’ offseason plans.
Orlando Brown Jr. to the Bills
Brown is not exactly a stranger to Buffalo. Having played in Buffalo twice, Week 14 of the 2019 season and this year’s AFC Divisional Round. He also has a former teammate in Bills guard, Cody Ford, having played together for back-to-back Heisman-winning quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray under head coach Lincoln Reilly at Oklahoma.
Buffalo will likely give up a fair amount in a trade for Brown including, more than likely, a first-round pick. However, like last year’s draft (though unlike many of the drafts before that), the Bills’ first-round pick falls pretty late in the proceedings at 30th overall. Under the circumstances, the Bills may want to use their first-rounder on an experienced player who will be ready to play and start right away. This situation certainly worked out well last year with the acquisition of Stefon Diggs.
Now, let’s say the Bills are able to land Brown in a trade. Brown has made it abundantly clear that he is a LEFT tackle (see Brown tweet, above). The Bills already have a left tackle–indeed, a franchise left tackle–in Dion Dawkins, who has anchored the left side of the line for the last three seasons. Could he move to the right side and man down the right tackle position or maybe even guard? Easier said than done.
To begin with, the footwork and the responsibilities between the right and left sides are significantly different. With a right-handed quarterback in Josh Allen, the right tackle spot is less important than the left side. But Dawkins is a very versatile lineman, and various scouts around the league believe he is better suited to play guard or right tackle as it is.
All in all, then, a position switch is not out of the question for Dawkins, but him wanting to is another issue.
Trading for Brown poses other risks as well. While Brown is still under his rookie contract, he is set to be a free agent after next season. It may not make sense for Buffalo to trade as much as a first-round pick just to have him leave in the following year. On top of that, Brown would not be the priority of upcoming extensions. With very limited cap space, the Bills still need to worry about re-signing Matt Milano (although at this point Beane has indicated that it is unlikely), and most importantly, extending our franchise quarterback Josh Allen.
With limited funds, a number of players needing to be re-signed, and a handful of solid options in the draft, I don’t think it makes a ton of sense. Unless Beane can pull off the right trade for the right price and have enough room to extend him, this is probably an opportunity Beane can let pass him by.
Brown to another team in the East*
The Bills are not the only team in the NFL that are in need of a tackle this offseason. In fact, New England, Miami, and the Jets are in need of these unsung heroes. To make matters worse, all have much more cap space than the Bills do this offseason. So, in that case, a trade to either of those three teams is probably much more likely.
A new stud tackle in the division to worry about highlights another position of need for the Bills: edge rush. Buffalo did not have their best defensive showing this year, and it was quite obvious. Much of that can be attributed to their lack of pass rush, which has been going downhill for years now.
As a team, the Bills had a 54% pass rush win rate, the second-highest in the league only behind Pittsburgh, which is good. Jerry Hughes was arguably the Bills’ best, highlighted by ESPN as the #2 edge rusher pass rush win rate with 29%. However, analytics only tell one part of the story, as do stats. Hughes finished the season with 4.5 sacks, 29 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 11 QB hits, and turned a year older. H had a good season but nothing to necessarily brag about.
That said, there is a long list of names on that defensive line that could be released. Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler, Mario Addison, and non-linemen like John Brown could all be on their way out of Queen City before March. With the few extra bucks saved, players like Trey Hendrickson from New Orleans, the Raiders’ Vic Beasley, or perhaps even the Niners’ Solomon Thomas can come in and provide a boost to the Bills’ pass rush.
Again, with limited cap space, the Bills could very well (and should) target an edge rusher with one of their first three picks. In my first mock draft with the other excellent writers here at Buffalo Fanatics, I have the Bills going with Gregory Rousseau out of the University of Miami. Here’s my full write up on the stud pass rusher: https://thebuffalofanatics.com/buffalo-bills-mock-draft/4/
Rousseau isn’t the only name that could be on Buffalo’s shopping list. Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia, Patrick Jones out of Pitt, Carlos Basham Jr. out of Wake Forrest, and a number of others are there for the taking. The edge rusher position is stacked this year, and if the Bills don’t sign one in free agency, there are plenty of dudes who can rush the quarterback to draft this year.
Listen, Orlando Brown to the Bills is a legitimate possibility. It would cost a lot to keep him, with draft capital and cap space, and who knows if the Bills even want to do it in the first place? If Brian Daboll and the rest of the coaching staff don’t feel the need to move Dawkins, and Beane doesn’t want to use all of the cap on Brown, then it’s probably not happening.
But regardless of where Brown gets dealt, edge rusher is still a glaring need for the Bills. If they want to get back to an AFC Championship Game (and beyond), the front office has to address this area of need. As we saw in the Super Bowl, teams like Kansas City can be beaten with a good pass rush. (They did have their two tackles out, and Mike Remmers is a disgrace to the position, but still….)
My overall verdict: trade for Brown if you know you can afford to keep/extend him and Dion Dawkins can move to the right side (or possibly play guard?).
Disagree with what I said? Tweet at me! @RubinsteinPete on Twitter.