Tyreek Hill’s contract talks might surprisingly put his past behind him

FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 14: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 14: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

Tyreek Hill has worked very hard to put his troubled past behind him, but the money involved on his new extension will tell the ultimate tale.

Here’s the thing about the bottom line: it’s the bottom line.

It’s easy for a team executive, player or coach to say the right thing to reporters. Responses are rehearsed. Sentiments are conjured. Messages are coded. It’s the money that talks, as they say.

A few weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs let it be known that two players were going to be given extensions if they so desired: defensive lineman Chris Jones and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. It would be easy at that point for both sides to say the right thing. General manager Brett Veach should talk about the importance of both players. Andy Reid should say how much he loves coaching each. As for Jones and Hill, it’d be nice if they included lines about loving the fans at Arrowhead and the Hunt family.

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Money, however, serves as a filter to figure out how a team really values a player. Bill Belichick can fill column inches with praise for his players, but he’s also shown a merciless approach to roster management—cutting the same players he’d praise for the sake of the bottom line. There’s that phrase again.

When it comes to the Chiefs, the bottom line is of utmost importance these days. It’s the reason the team is reticent to extend Dee Ford beyond a franchise tag and why Justin Houston is likely finished with the team. Salary cap issues stemming from mammoth deals given to Eric Berry and Justin Houston during the John Dorsey era have created some significant financial hurdles for Veach and his staff to try to overcome.

When the Chiefs made it clear that extensions were forthcoming for Hill and Jones, it made sense given that both players the exact sort of elite young players that teams do anything and everything they can to lock up. But given the money and commitment involved, you might also expect the Chiefs to push a bit, to move from friendly to adversarial, to try to negotiate whatever they could in their favor while still accomplishing their overall goal (to lock up said player).

Yet that is not how the headlines are playing this out.

On Tuesday, word broke that the Chiefs and Tyreek Hill were working on a “record-setting deal,” a qualifier given without specificity. It’s unknown whether record-setting referred to the overall monetary amount, the average annual value, the length of the deal, et al. But given Hill’s career trajectory, salary cap growth, and the overall market, it makes sense for Hill’s deal to at least top the average annual value of $19 million given to Odell Beckham, Jr. by the New York Giants.

This “record-setting” descriptor is important because Tyreek Hill comes with an asterisk, so to speak. His checkered history with a domestic violence charge could technically make him a risk, a character concern, a PR worry. There’s a reason some teams never had Hill on their draft board and why he slipped all the way to the fifth round for the Chiefs in the first place.

It’s not that anyone wants to bring this stuff up, but when money is involved, it should be expected. It makes sense, in light of the bottom line, for the Chiefs to simultaneously express interest in an extension (and even offer some numbers) while also pointing to issues of the past. Fair or not, it’s about securing a cheaper future. Every little bit helps and, when it comes to negotiations, the claws generally come out before the dust of agreement settles and everyone is happy again.

But that doesn’t seem to be happening here at all. Hill has already done the very hard work of putting his past behind him. He not only served his time, but he’s been a model citizen in Kansas City. He’s built a family and has blossomed as a player and person. He’s taken well to all aspects of coaching and done everything the Chiefs have asked him to do. He deserves to be rewarded appropriately.

Instead of coming to the negotiating table hoping to provide long-term security for Hill and his family while shaving off a few bucks here and there in the name of past concerns, the Chiefs are instead, on the surface, likely to give Hill what the open market would dictate—a contract that will set records. It’s a sign that the Chiefs want to do right by the brilliant young Cheetah, and that there’s at least one thing Tyreek Hill doesn’t have to run from anymore. His past is completely and successfully behind him.