These days, logging onto Vikings Twitter means a plethora of draft coverage and, in turn, a bevy of opinions on what Rick Spielman should do come April 29. Everybody is their own personal GM, and fans are excited for draft day. In fact, the Minnesota Vikings faithful rank third in mock drafts done in PFF’s simulator (which, if you haven’t done yet, I highly recommend).
We can sit here and argue about what the Vikings should do with pick 14, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that nobody would complain about an offensive lineman. Unless someone unexpectedly falls, this would likely mean picking Christian Darrisaw or Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Both options would be solid and fill a major need. But what if I told you Spielman could pick up a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle instead?
That may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s actually extremely possible thanks to the one and only Orlando Brown Jr.
Drafted in 2018, Brown has been an absolute stud for the Baltimore Ravens. He hasn’t missed a single game in three seasons and has started at offensive tackle in all but six. Frankly, it’s a bit odd that Baltimore is willing to move him after he registered a PFF grade of 76.5 last season.
Brown has played mostly right tackle in his career and wanted to move back to left tackle, presumably because it’s a more coveted position. The only problem is the Ravens already have a Pro Bowl left tackle in Ronnie Stanley.
Ah, what a convenient problem it must be to have too many studs on the offensive line. Maybe someday, Vikings fans.
Per Darren Wolfson, the Vikings have had conversations with Baltimore regarding Brown, but that was way back in early March. In fact, the rumor mill has quieted down since then. That’s really not too shocking, considering Brown is only 24 years old and will cost a pretty penny. But of all the teams allegedly linked to him, the Vikings could provide the best package.
My hypothetical trade is as follows:
- The Vikings receive Orlando Brown Jr., pick 27, and pick 184.
- The Ravens receive pick 14, pick 78, and a 2022 second-round pick.
Any deal would have to involve the Vikings’ first-rounder, which would be a perfect place for Baltimore to draft. The Ravens’ biggest need arguably is at the wideout position, and trading up to Minnesota’s spot would give Baltimore the chance to take a player like Jaylen Waddle.
On the other hand, the Vikings move down 13 spots and pick one of the remaining edge rushers available. It’s really a win-win: Baltimore gets a day-one game-changer, and Minnesota addresses two massive needs.
What’s preventing Spielman from making this happen? On paper, it looks like it’d be a home-run trade any way you spin it.
Well, not exactly. First and foremost, Brown isn’t a perfect scheme fit for the Vikings. The zone-blocking scheme Minnesota utilizes requires quicker, more athletic linemen who can move up and down the field. Brown is more of your traditional anchored-down tackle, which may make Spielman a little more hesitant to dish out the assets needed to get him.
This is definitely a valid concern, but it is blown a bit out of proportion to me. While scheme fit is important, it is not the end-all-be-all. Whenever you can get somebody who is among the best at their position, you do it 100% of the time. Would it be a bit of an adjustment? Maybe, but Brown is elite, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be a meaningful upgrade over Rashod Hill.
The other concern is that Brown is due a big payday after this season. He’ll be roughly a $3.4 million cap hit this year, but next year he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Currently, Sportrac has his market value sitting at $12.7 million a year, and next offseason, he’ll be fetching a long-term deal in the 5-year, $63 million range.
For the trade to really make sense, there needs to be a plan in place for Brown to be more than a rental. But with guys like Anthony Barr coming off the books in 2022, and the unlikelihood that a fifth-year deal is extended to Mike Hughes, the money could come together.
There’s no doubt that making a move for Brown would be quite a commitment, but it’s not too often a team has an opportunity to acquire a durable, Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle who has yet to enter his prime.
While there’s certainly a lot of offensive line talent in this year’s draft, the Vikings’ best short- and long-term solution could come via a trade. It’d be a big splash, but sometimes that’s what it takes to secure a blindside protector for years to come.