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Mike Preston: Ravens, Orlando Brown Jr. should know business exceeds loyalty, especially in NFL | COMMENTARY

In the NFL, a player is only loyal to himself and his family.

It’s the same in other professional sports, but more intense in the NFL because the average career span is roughly three years. So, in essence, the objective is to make as much money as you can as fast as you can, a philosophy Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. understands well.

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With one year left on the four-year rookie contract he signed that will pay him $3.6 million in 2021, Brown wants a new deal that will pay him as a left tackle, where he started 11 games last season in place of injured All-Pro Ronnie Stanley.

Brown played pretty well after making the switch, but some fans are now questioning his loyalty. They want to know how a local star who went to Pot Spring Elementary in Timonium can command a new contract or a trade from the hometown team.

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At this point, it’s hard to predict how this situation will turn out, especially because there are doubts about Brown being a quality left tackle. But greed is good, especially in the NFL.

“I was a little bit surprised and he is still on his rookie deal, but hey, I always wanted to get paid,” Ravens great and Pro Football Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. “You want to get the most money you can, and maybe his agent is just trying to maximize his position. I don’t blame him, but can the Ravens pay two tackles? I don’t know if that is possible.

“But if someone wants to pay him for being a left tackle, I don’t want to begrudge the man for trying to make money. I will never do that.”

It’s ironic that Brown might want to leave Baltimore. Questions about his work ethic caused his stock to drop before the start of the 2018 NFL draft and some projected the former starting left tackle at Oklahoma to fall into the fourth or fifth round.

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But Ozzie Newsome, then the Ravens general manager, chose Brown in the third round after working with his father, Orlando Brown Sr., a starting right tackle with the team for six years in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. Newsome knew about the strong foundation the elder Brown built with his son, which he thought he could reach.

Brown Jr. also had a strong supporting cast, including former Ravens offensive linemen Tony Jones, Wally Williams and Ogden. Brown Sr. died on Sept. 23, 2011, from diabetic ketoacidosis. He was only 40 years old, but is generally regarded as the toughest Raven in the team’s brief history.

“He is a really good player and surpassed his dad as far as what he has accomplished on the field,” Ogden said of the younger Brown. “He made a couple of Pro Bowls; his dad never made one. Zeus had that ‘I came from nothing’ mentality. ‘I am going to fight and scratch for everything.’ Little Orlando didn’t come from that, it wasn’t the same.

“But I give him credit. When Zeus passed, he did what he had to do to get himself where he is now. He took it upon himself, and you have to appreciate and respect him for that. I would like to see him remain a Raven.”

The Ravens would like him to stay in Baltimore as well. He is part of a team that continues to build around young talent, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, linebacker Patrick Queen, wide receiver Marquise Brown, running back J.K. Dobbins and Stanley.

But it’s Stanley’s contract that has caused Brown to rethink some things. Stanley, a former first-round pick out of Notre Dame, recently completed his fifth season and signed a five-year deal worth $112 million on Oct. 30, making him one of the highest paid linemen in the NFL.

Just two days later, Stanley was carted off the field with a season-ending ankle injury. Brown started the remaining games, including two in the postseason, and earned his second straight Pro Bowl selection.

Brown has leverage because the Ravens can’t afford to pay both Stanley and Brown nearly $20 million a season, which is the number most of the top tackles are trying to surpass these days. As a dominant right tackle, Brown would command about $14 million a year on the open market, but the Ravens still have to re-sign players such as Jackson and Andrews.

“There is loyalty, man, but the career is short,” Ogden said. “I don’t think he really wants to leave, just wants to get paid. Maybe it is a ploy to see what the Ravens have. I don’t know, but I’d love to see him stay a Raven.”

It will be interesting to see how many teams are willing to trade for Brown. He has played in a run-oriented offense with the Ravens, who had 596 rushing plays compared with 440 passing plays in 2019 and 555 to 406 last season.

Brown is considered more of a mauler than a finesse player and has slow feet compared with some of the great left tackles. The million dollar question is, can he have success in a predominantly passing offense?

Well, that’s a several million dollar question now.

“Ronnie Stanley is a better left tackle, a better athlete who has more of that left tackle makeup in him,” Ogden said. “That’s not to say Orlando doesn’t. I think he really did a good job this year, especially considering the situation.

“But he was with the No. 1 running offense in the league that runs a lot with a quarterback who is super athletic. Can you play in a passing offense where you’re expected to pass block most of the time? Can you make the transition? I don’t know the answer to that.”

Brown has most of the tools to be a highly successful left tackle. He is tall, quick and explosive with long arms. But there are questions about his ability to recover when he gets out of position and his effort finishing plays.

“This year he was getting better playing through the whistle,” Ogden said. “I didn’t feel he always played with anger through the whistle all the time. He got better this year, but he still has to be a little more aggressive, which a lot of young players have to learn anyway.

“It’s not easy to be able to play on both sides, and he did that well, and that’s his biggest asset. Orlando saw what Ronnie got paid and he sees what a right tackle gets paid. If [the Ravens] came up to him and said, ‘We’ll pay you $20 million to be a right tackle in Baltimore,’ then he’ll be a right tackle. There is no doubt about it.”

There shouldn’t be any more questions about Brown’s loyalty. Players are beholden to the whims of the team. Organizations can trade or cut them whenever they want. When they get injured, some are discarded as easily as an old pair of spikes.

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One thing Brown inherited from his father was his common sense. Brown Sr. used to have an accountant check over his accountant.

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The NFL is the same way, and so are the players, because it always comes down to business.

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