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Should the Jaguars trade for Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr?

There is growing speculation that the Ravens might have to deal their star tackle.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Rarely does a Pro Bowl offensive tackle come available via trade in the NFL, but when it happens, plenty of teams will understandably jump on the opportunity to land him. That could be the case with Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is set to enter the last year of his contract.

For the Jaguars, left tackle Cam Robinson is due to hit free agency after finishing the final year of his rookie contract in 2020. There has been no indication from the new regime that he will be retained, however, there is still plenty of time to make that decision either via a long-term deal or franchise tag.

As of this article’s publishing, the Ravens have given no concrete indication that Brown is available via trade, however, they might have to if he is set on playing left tackle as his tweet appeared to indicate on Friday.

The Ravens currently have a left tackle. Ronnie Stanley, who signed a huge five-year, $98.75M contract extension, including $70.886M guaranteed, with the Ravens on Oct. 30 last year, is clearly entrenched in that role even after suffering a season-ending ankle injury that cost him the last eight games of the season.

Brown, who is set to earn $3,384,000 in the final year of his deal could be looking to take advantage of his unique situation, demanding left tackle money as opposed to right tackle money.

The difference is significant. According to Spotrac.com, the average base salary for the top 10 left tackles in 2021 is $16,590,833, compared to the right tackle base salary average of $11,231,306.

According to CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora, Brown’s situation may force the Ravens to trade the young star tackle, gaining compensation for a core piece of their well-built offensive line.

Former Ravens running back, Mark Ingram, appears to agree, too.

Many teams, possibly even the Jaguars, will have to then decide whether or not Brown would make sense for their given situation.

Below, we will address the two major driving forces that would shift the decision in one way or another, talent and compensation.

Talent Divide

There is no question that there is a talent divide when one compares the careers thus far between Brown and Robinson, the two players questioned in this hypothetical situation. Brown has played at a higher level, overall than Robinson, while Robinson has had impressive highs himself, but also some lows to boot.

Brown, typically a right tackle for the Ravens, quickly moved over the left side and excelled. According to Pro Football Focus, in 13 games at left tackle last season, Brown allowed just 19 pressures with zero sacks attributed to him. For reference, Robinson was attributed with allowing 40 pressures and five sacks in 16 games, according to PFF.

While not a guide as a whole, Robinson excelled in 2020 compared to 2019 coming off of a torn ACL, PFF does provide a basic-level understanding of how well a given tackle performed on a game-to-game basis.

Since entering the NFL in 2018, Brown has already been named to two Pro Bowls, including in 2019 and, most recently this year for the 2020 season.

While left tackle is a new position for Brown, he showed in 2020 that it may not be as difficult of a transition as once perceived. While at Oklahoma from 2015-17, Brown played and started 40 games at left tackle, and was named back-to-back Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

Since being selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Robinson has played four seasons, while missing the majority (14 out of 16 games) of his second season (2018) due to a torn ACL, and two games in 2019, still recovering from the ACL injury. Last year, Robinson played and started all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Consistency was an issue for him this year, however, dealing with yet another lingering injury, this time his shoulder. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone mentioned this in December when discussing the fourth-year left tackle.

“I think what we’ve seen from Cam this year, we’ve seen flashes of what we expect of him, where he’s done a very good job,” said Marrone.

“And there’s been a lot of flashes in almost every game, but the consistency is what you’re trying to drive for, and he’s working at that every single day to get that better. He’s got a couple things that he’s working on. If he can clean a couple things up, I think the consistency will rise.”

Compensation questions

Historically, a left tackle has garnered plenty of compensation if traded. It is not typical that a potential franchise tackle does get traded, however, there have been two recent examples of such transactions occurring in the NFL.

In 2019, former Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil was traded for a king's ransom, with the Houston Texans sending two first-round picks and one second-round pick, along with special team players to the Dolphins for Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Last year, former Washington Football Team left tackle Trent Williams was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for just a 2020 fifth-round pick, and a 2021 third-round pick.

Certainly, the two trades are not a direct comparison. At the time of their trades, Tunsil was just 24 years old, while Williams was 31 years old. The gap in talent, however, is not as great.

Tunsil, while earning two Pro Bowl nods in 2019 and 2020, had not earned any in his previous years with the Dolphins, though he did excel at the position. Williams, on the other hand, was an eight-time Pro Bowler, though he missed all of 2019 due to various health complications that would ultimately lead to his request for a trade.

If the Jaguars were to enter negotiations for Brown, they’d likely do so knowing the Ravens have little choice to trade him or pay him the level of compensation he wants. The leverage there would exist for any party entering negotiations. The same level of leverage could not be said for when the Dolphins, who didn’t have to trade Tunsil, did so in 2019.

The Jaguars could offer their second-round pick (No. 33) and their third-round pick (No. 66), essentially a late first-round and late second-round pick for Brown. Depending on the Ravens’ ask, this could get it done.

The Jaguars have two second-round picks (Vikings, No. 45) in this year’s draft, so parting with one of the two, albeit a high one, wouldn’t be too difficult.

Another situation the team could see itself in, is trading its second-first-round pick, pick No. 25 (via Rams), however, that would likely not be as prudent of the team to execute, especially considering the level of needs the team has.

Final thoughts

From a pure talent perspective, the decision would be easy. Brown would represent an upgrade over Robinson, who is an impending free agent, and he would become a key cornerstone at just 24 years old, protecting the blindside of presumed No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

If the Jaguars do not wish to retain Robinson, either via a contract extension or via the franchise tag, the need for a left tackle will certainly become the team’s No. 2 priority after it obtains its quarterback at No. 1 overall. Jacksonville likely would select a tackle at pick No. 25, and while the class is deep, the idea of a rookie protecting another rookie’s blindside isn’t ideal.

If the team would like to upgrade the position without using the draft, they’ll essentially need to decide between a trade (Brown), extending Robinson, or another big-contract free agent, potentially Williams.

If the compensation is simply a second and third-round pick, the Jaguars should jump at the opportunity, acquiring talent at the level Brown has played at doesn’t come easily. They’d essentially be “drafting” Brown in the second round, tossing in a third-round pick for good measure.

If, however, the compensation becomes too great, it may behoove the team to sit back, and use its cap space to retain Robinson, who has shown to be a competent left tackle in the past.