The Kansas City Chiefs are a little more than a day away from a moment that will have a big impact on their season, regardless of the outcome.

Said moment is in reference to the NFL’s franchise tag deadline, which officially kicks in at 4 p.m. ET. on July 15. Orlando Brown Jr. has yet to sign his tag and the thought is he’ll miss the start of training camp and could even sit out the first week of the season if he and the Chiefs can’t agree to a long-term deal.

Per NFL Network‘s Mike Garafolo, the issue amongst the two parties is the Chiefs are pricing Brown Jr. as a right tackle. Brown Jr., on the other hand, wants to be paid as a left tackle.

“Now, Jamaal Brown did not get into specifics, but my understanding is that the offers to Brown Jr. -who wants to be paid at the top of the left tackle market, which is $23 million per year- are more in line with the top of the right tackle market,” Garafolo recently said on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access.

There’s a rather large discrepancy between the two positions when it comes to dollars and cents. Just as a quick example: Per Spotrac, Trent Williams is the NFL’s highest-paid left tackle at a little over $23 million per year. Ryan Ramczyk, the highest-paid right tackle, makes $19.2 million per year.

In Brown Jr.’s defense, he was named to the Pro Bowl in his first season as a left tackle. And he wasn’t an alternate – he was an original pick. And it’s important to note that according to Pro Football Focus, 18.3% of the overall pressures allowed by the Chiefs came from the left tackle position, which was the 10th-lowest rate in the NFL.

But in the Chiefs’ defense, Brown Jr. was solid, but not spectacular. Per PFF, Brown Jr. tied for the league lead in allowed quarterback hits (12), he allowed the 14th-most sacks (4), allowed the seventh-most overall pressures (36), and finished 11th with an overall pass blocking efficiency mark of 97.2 among left tackles with at least 853 pass blocking snaps. He also tied for the ninth-most penalties committed (5).

It didn’t get much better when Brown Jr. was in a true pass set, either. Brown Jr. still led the NFL in allowed quarterback hits (9), allowed the eighth-most sacks (4), and his pass blocking efficiency mark of 94.2 was seventh-worst among left tackles with at least 198 pass blocking snaps out of a true pass set.

And remember the 18.3% aforementioned responsibility rate? Well, that number spiked to 24.3% in the postseason, which tied for the team’s worst rate and was the sixth-highest responsibility rate out of the 14 eligible playoff teams.

There are three more reasons that go beyond numbers, as well: Joe Thuney, Andrew Wylie, and rookie fifth-rounder Darrian Kinnard. Lucas Niang can be considered in this group, as well, but his official status is still unknown due to his torn ACL from last season, so we’ll exclude him, for now.

These three are important because they can help the Chiefs get by without Brown Jr. in case he decides to hold out. Thuney showed last season against the Cincinnati Bengals that he’s capable of playing left tackle at a solid level. Granted, it’s a one-game sample size, and it’s pretty clear it’s a better option to keep Thuney at left guard, but that doesn’t keep this from being a plausible option in a worst-case scenario.

Thuney’s spot could be filled by veteran Andrew Wylie, who played well in 2019 when he primarily played left guard. Then there’s Kinnard, whom the Chiefs see as a right tackle in the NFL. While it isn’t ideal to play a rookie on the offensive line, Kinnard has the traits and reputation to make it work. And then, as a wild card, versatile offensive lineman Nick Allegretti can help if things go really wrong.

Ideally, the Chiefs want Brown Jr. in this lineup. There’s no doubt about that. And they’re a much better team with him at left tackle.

But at the same time, he does need to show he’s capable of playing left tackle at a higher level before he deserves a payday that’s worth the sum of the top left tackles in the NFL.

And, the Chiefs have just enough to get by in terms of personnel and they have a smart enough coaching staff that can at least help mitigate the potential loss of Brown Jr.

It’s not an easy decision, whatsoever. Especially when considering how much the Chiefs invested in Brown Jr. via last year’s trade. The most plausible option seems like a “bridge deal”; something like a two-year, $40 million deal. This way, both sides win to an extent and both sides can revisit the deal next year or in two years if Brown Jr. improves.

It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out and sure enough, we’ll find out what’s going to happen very, very soon.

Featured image via Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports