The Kansas City Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill in a stunning move. Now, armed with picks, cap space and question marks, here’s what to expect.
Much like Tyreek Hill himself, his trade out of Kansas City was swift and stunning.
Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs traded superstar receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, receiving five draft picks in return including first, second and fourth-round choices in 2022, along with fourth- and sixth-round selections in ’23.
For Miami, Hill becomes the epicenter of its offense into the foreseeable future, especially after it signed him to a four-year, $120 million extension with $72.2 million guaranteed.
In Kansas City, many were left with two questions after the shock wore off …
Why, and what next?
Let’s start with the why.
For Kansas City general manager Brett Veach, he had two choices once the Las Vegas Raiders signed Davante Adams to a five-year, $140 million deal including $65.7 million guaranteed. He either exceeded it both in annual value and guarantees, or he moved on.
Veach chose to move on. Once he did, the Hill trade came together quickly. And the Chiefs got tremendous value in terms of assets, netting five picks including two top-50 choices, along with $75 million in cap space over the upcoming three years.
Of course, assets eventually become players. And once they do, we’ll know who won this trade.
This can go either way.
In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys sent running back Herschel Walker and three draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings for eight selections, including three first-rounders and a trio of second-round choices. In the ensuing years, those picks would jumpstart a dynasty, landing such players as Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, star safety Darren Woodson and defensive tackle Russell Maryland.
However, these moves can also backfire.
In 2011, the Atlanta Falcons moved up 21 spots in the first round (from No. 27 to No. 6) to take receiver Julio Jones. Atlanta sent the Cleveland Browns two first- and fourth-rounders, along with a second-round choice. Those picks turned into nose tackle Phil Taylor, receiver Greg Little, fullback Owen Marecic, quarterback Brandon Weeden and defensive tackle John Hughes.
Now for the what next.
Kansas City has already been proactive in revamping its receiving corps. The Chiefs have signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to one- and three-year deals respectively. They also allowed Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson to walk in free agency before dealing Hill to Miami.
What are the common threads? Younger, cheaper, size and excellent blocking.
In Smith-Schuster, the Chiefs got a versatile underneath talent on the perimeter and in the slot with yards-after-catch ability. As for Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City now has a deep threat who can still force opponents to play two-high shells, creating space for tight end Travis Kelce, and receivers Mecole Hardman and Smith-Schuster.
Furthermore, don’t expect the Chiefs to be done at receiver. They need at least two more, and while one will almost-certainly be a top pick, the other could be another veteran or a second rookie with upside.
Then there’s the other facet of the Hill deal: fixing the defense.
Kansas City has watched its defense become old and/or slow down the middle of the field in recent years. That’s changing with the departures of safeties Dan Sorensen and Tyrann Mathieu, and linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann. With those exits, the Chiefs will rely more on incumbent linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton, along with Juan Thornhill and free-agent addition Justin Reid on the back end.
Kansas City is also loaded with 12 picks in the upcoming draft, and will certainly look for edge rush help along with depth along the defensive line and corner being prioritized as well. Speaking of corner, the Chiefs have interest in veteran corner Stephon Gilmore, per source, along with reported interest in trading for New York Giants’ star James Bradberry.
Finally, the interest in Bradberry and Gilmore speak to the final component of all this: cap flexibility. By not extending Hill and having a dozen draft picks, the Chiefs will be loaded with cheap contracts and therefore, the ability to sign a few marquee free agents, specifically on the defensive side.
Whether this trade works out for Kansas City or proves to be a blunder remains unknown. In the immediate future, it’s hard to make a case the Chiefs are better or even the same as their 2021 form.
And yet if Veach can nail a few of those acquired picks, and the cap space goes towards impact players, the Chiefs will take the trade.
Kansas City has the assets. Now the Chiefs must turn them into something worthwhile.
Top 10 teams in terms of 2022 draft capital (per Draftek’s points chart)
1. New York Jets – 4603
2. Houston Texans – 4510.4
3. Chicago Bears – 4318.6
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – 4250.7
5. Detroit Lions – 4162.4
6. Philadelphia Eagles – 3626.8
7. Seattle Seahawks 2704.6
8. Atlanta Falcons – 2703.8
9. Green Bay Packers 2352.4
10. Kansas City Chiefs 2250.5
“I think all these guys are capable of being starters. I think once you get them you develop a plan of how you want to deal with them. We’re starting that process now, ‘Hey, what can we do?’ Ideally, every quarterback, no matter what it would be, whoever it is, would sit a little while and learn, however, when it’s time it’s time, and they’ll let you know.”
– Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer on the incoming rookie quarterback class
The Panthers will support Sam Darnold publicly — and they should — but they know the truth. Without a substantial upgrade, or at least the promise of one in a rookie quarterback showing growth throughout 2022, head coach Matt Rhule likely doesn’t have a fourth year. And, with ownership getting impatient, the Panthers must find a better option than Darnold soon.
While no quarterback in this class is seen as worth the No. 6 overall pick, don’t be surprised if Carolina makes a desperate move, hoping to be proven right.
In their postseason history, the Dallas Cowboys are 35-26 against every team outside of the Washington Commanders ad New York Giants. Against them, they’re 0-3, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl each time, winning it twice.
Info learned this week
1. Matt Ryan joins Colts, but what is their ceiling?
The Indianapolis Colts are no longer wandering in the quarterback wilderness.
On Monday, they sent a third-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for Matt Ryan. Atlanta, which was a finalist for Deshaun Watson, netted only a single selection for its franchise quarterback while incurring a $40 million dead cap hit. Rough.
As for the Colts, they become the favorite in the AFC South. The Tennessee Titans have an argument, but Indy has the better quarterback, a solid defense and a terrific offensive line.
Still, is the Colts’ ceiling a division crown, or is there additional upside?
The AFC is loaded, and it’s tough putting Indianapolis ahead of favorites such as the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals or Kansas City, even with the latter missing Tyreek Hill. However, they move into the tier of contender with the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens, all clubs with questions but also ample answers.
In head coach Frank Reich’s career with the Colts, he had Andrew Luck for one season and made the Divisional round. Since, it’s been three starting quarterbacks in as many years for Indianapolis, with no playoff victories.
With Ryan in town, Reich and the Colts have a real chance to make a run into January.
2. Deshaun Watson presser shows why Browns have struggled for years
If you watched the Watson press conference on Friday, you noticed absences.
Somehow, despite acquiring a quarterback with 22 civil suits against him encompassing a wide range of sexual misconduct allegations, owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam were absent from the in-person press conference held by the team. They only managed a Zoom conference hours later, instead of being there with Watson at the podium.
Why does it matter? For two reasons: optics and accountability.
Nobody knows what Watson’s future holds. Two grand juries have dismissed 10 criminal complaints in the past few weeks. The civil suits are pending. We shall see. That said, the Haslams brought a controversial figure to Cleveland, and should have answered questions alongside Watson, head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. They failed to do so.
What the Haslams did was allow other people to answer the tough questions. An embarrassment, to be kind.
3. Limited markets for Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield as draft approaches
We could be waiting into the early summer for the remaining veteran quarterback trades.
Both the San Francisco 49ers and Browns might be waiting until after the 2022 NFL Draft to send Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield elsewhere, respectively.
In San Francisco’s case, it waited too long to deal Garoppolo, who was surely a better option compared to Carson Wentz, who was traded in principle before the new league year. As for Cleveland, it couldn’t jettison Mayfield until Watson agreed to come over, so Berry was in a tricker spot. However, he needs to move Mayfield, and will be lucky to land a Day 2 pick.
Ultimately, they’ll go to teams who strike out in the draft. The Seattle Seahawks, Falcons and Panthers all need quarterbacks and have top-10 picks. Whoever walks away without Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Kenny Pickett and/or Desmond Ritter will eventually be open to dealing.
Yet even then, the Browns and Niners have lost leverage. Don’t expect huge returns.
4. For Dolphins, it needs to be Tua Time
Let’s look at the Tyreek Hill trade from the Dolphins’ perspective.
After two consecutive winning seasons but zero playoff berths, Miami hit reset.
This offseason, the Dolphins replaced Brian Flores with Mike McDaniel at head coach, a former offensive assistant from San Francisco. After years of building with expensive defensive pieces (Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy for example), general manager Chris Grier has gone heavy on offense with Hill’s trade and subsequent $120 million extension, along with left tackle Terron Armstead’s five-year signing.
With Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside, along with running back Raheem Mostert and tight end Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins have myriad weapons. The offensive line has also been substantially upgraded with both the aforementioned Armstead and guard Connor Williams, coming over from the Cowboys.
Miami has done everything to help third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa succeed. Now he must.
The Dolphins have two first-round picks in 2023, so should Tagovailoa still be a middling player, Grier could easily move on while declining Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option or exercising it before trading him. To this point, the Hawaii native has played in 23 games (21 starts) and thrown for 4,467 yards with 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, averting 6.6 yards per attempt. Not good enough, but he hasn’t had much support.
Regardless of Dolphins’ fans stance on Tua, here’s reality: if he’s not significantly improved this autumn, Miami will actively seek an upgrade.
If he does step up, though, the Dolphins are then forced to consider an extension in his first year of eligibility. A fascinating situation to watch.
5. Mock draft season is here … for real
The NFL mock drafts are everywhere. They’re at FanSided (our Brad Weiss does a terrific job) and every other corner of the football world. We all bemoan their existence, but they exist because few things are read more in the offseason, if any.
Most of them are a guessing game. However, there does come a time to pay attention, and we’ve reached it. As of Monday, the NFL Draft is in one month.
By now, most pro days are wrapped up, every team has the medical information needed, and of course, the main showcases like the Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl and Scouting Combine are long over. Additionally, after months of picking for teams based on a litany of needs, free agency has whittled down those roster holes.
Only a fool would believe mock drafts will nail big stretches of the first round, but we have a real idea of ranges now for each player. Yes, there are always surprises, but there’s usually a general agreement among scouts and front offices about a player’s stock, and those will leak out to some extent over the next four weeks, with some smokescreens thrown in.
After months of informed guesswork, it’s time for mock drafts to start crystallizing with real info.
Don’t forget about the Ravens in the AFC.
While the Bills are deserved favorites, and the Bengals are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Ravens belong in the mix as having legitimate championship aspirations.
Last year, Baltimore was ravaged by injuries. Before the season began, the Ravens lost running back J.K. Dobbins in a preseason game before corner Marcus Peters and running back Gus Edwards went down on consecutive plays in practice, all with season-ending torn ACLs.
In December, quarterback Lamar Jackson and corner Marlon Humphrey went down and missed the final month of the season with ankle and pec injuries, respectively. There was also a season-ending injury to left tackle Ronnie Stanley after only one game.
With all their stars back, and a good free agency behind them, the Ravens promise to be a problem. Even with those ailments, Baltimore was 7-2 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC after 10 weeks. Then it came crashing down, largely because of one-point losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
There are plenty of contenders in the AFC, but don’t sleep on Baltimore.
Inside the league
Over the next month, monitor the big-name veteran free agents.
At the outset of free agency, players and agents set a price and begin negotiations. In many cases, the stars are signed quickly with the second tier at a given position going after the first tier dries up. This is common knowledge.
However, there are times when a veteran’s representation outprices the market, leaving his client in an unsettled situation. In other cases, an older player might be looking for the right situation and can afford to wait while looking for a combination of fit and winning, understanding they aren’t a top priority for teams.
Also, there’s something else to keep in mind for the veterans likely getting one-year deals, and those who will come cheap. In early May, they no longer count against the compensatory pick formula. Teams factor this in.
With most superstars off the market and many of the offseason trades having happened, clubs know their cap situation and can operate accordingly. Expect that to spur action for some of the remaining stars waiting on their next deal.
When a controversial call is brought up between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in a playoff game, everyone immediately thinks Tuck Rule.
They never talk about Sugar Bear Hamilton.
In 1976, the Raiders went 13-1. They’re only loss came at Sullivan Stadium in Week 4, where the Patriots humiliated them, 48-17. As fate would have it, the adversaries met again in the AFC Divisional round, this time in the Oakland Coliseum.
Trailing 21-10 in the fourth quarter, the Raiders scored on a 1-yard Mark van Eeghan 1-yard run to make the score 21-17. Then, facing 3rd and 17 at New England’s 36-yard line, Oakland’s Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler launched an incompletion down the left sideline.
But a flag. Roughing the passer, blow to the head. Sugar Bear Hamilton. It remains one of the most controversial calls in NFL history.
With 57 seconds, the Raiders were given new life. And, 43 seconds later, Stabler snuck into the end zone for the game-winning score. Three weeks later, Oakland smashed the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, shedding the label of choke artists.
Had Hamilton’s hit been ruled legal, the Raiders likely lose and the Steelers host the Patriots at Three Rivers Stadium the following weekend. Maybe we have a three-time defending champ for the first and, to this point, only time.
Instead, a personal foul and a Super Bowl for the Silver and Black.
Kyler Murray is a predicament.
After making a show of trying for –and failing to receive — a contract extension, Murray watched as his Arizona Cardinals generously handed out such deals to general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the latter of whom shares an agent with Murray.
Then, Murray watched as the Cardinals lost key pieces on both sides of the ball in free agency, namely receiver Christian Kirk and edge rusher Chandler Jones without obvious replacements.
Going into next season, Murray has multiple issues. The extensions for Keim and Kingsbury leave the fourth-year quarterback having to save face in the locker room after being public in his demands and having them fall flat. Additionally, he has a lesser team around him and a quality division to contend with, along with facing the AFC West in inter-conference play.
If Murray falters, the Cardinals can’t fire Kingsbury or Keim. Not after giving them a ton of new money. And if you can’t blame the coach or general manager, the quarterback is the clear scapegoat.
Murray needs to deliver in 2022 despite the challenges. If he does, he likely earns another huge deal in Arizona.
If he doesn’t, there’s a real chance he’s either dealt away while under contract so the Cardinals can get a bounty in return, or he plays on a fifth-year option under very tense circumstances.