Arguably the most shocking transaction of the 2022 NFL offseason was the blockbuster trade between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs sent Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins and in return received five draft picks, one of which is a 2022 first-rounder.
This rocked the NFL world not only because of the trade itself. Miami capped off the trade by signing Hill to a four-year extension worth $30 million a year. This extension followed major money to the position in the Kirk and Adams deals and made Hill the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history.
Overnight the top-end of the wide receiver position became one of the costliest in the league. If compared to cap hits in 2022, Hill’s per year average on his extension would make him the 3rd highest compensated non-quarterback. Unsurprisingly, the two players in front of him are defensive linemen.
Have the Chiefs done enough to replace Tyreek Hill in 2022?
While this situation has league-wide ramifications for the foreseeable future, it immediately impacts teams like the Chiefs who have a franchise quarterback on a major contract. With a large percentage of the cap expended at one position, these teams don’t have the luxury of spending top-of-market money on historically lower value positions.
The Chiefs have signed multiple mid-tier wide receivers in this free agency period, but is this enough to mitigate the loss of Hill in 2022? Longer-term, is the prospect of signing an elite free-agent wide receiver a wise financial move anymore and if not, what should teams like the Chiefs do instead?
Tyreek Hill is probably the best wide receiver to ever play for the Chiefs. It’s hard to argue as the Chiefs lacked elite talent at the position for decades. Otis Taylor is arguably the only other major contender.
The major difference between the two is that Otis Taylor subjectively did not produce enough to become a Hall of Famer. If Hill continues even a somewhat diminished level of his current trajectory it would be hard to see him outside the Hall of Fame. It’s going to be difficult to replace that type of production.
The Chiefs have made several acquisitions at the wide receiver position to offset the loss, with the two most prominent the signing of JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to a three-year deal. Both come with high to very high potential but also major questions to be answered.
Smith-Schuster had 917 receiving yards and seven touchdowns his rookie season and followed that up with a Pro Bowl campaign tallying 1,426 receiving yards and another seven touchdowns in 2018. The following season the Steelers’ offense fell apart with the departure of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and a season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger.
Production at the wide receiver position across the team fell off a cliff, and Smith-Schuster was no exception. Roethlisberger returned the following two seasons but was in rapid decline, and Smith-Schuster never returned to his prior level of production.
Valdes-Scantling has always been considered a mid-tier receiver, playing third and even fourth fiddle at times in the Green Bay Packers offense. In his four seasons with the team, he averaged nearly 540 yards and three touchdowns per season.
At 6’4″ and 206 pounds Valdes-Scantling will be one of the Chiefs’ bigger receivers, and his 4.37 speed would seem to make him one of the fastest. He has all the tools to be a very productive wide receiver in Andy Reid’s system.
Can Smith-Schuster regain his Pro Bowl form catching passes from a quarterback in his prime, and can Valdez-Scantling ascend from a third or fourth option to a first or second? With Andy Reid calling plays and Patrick Mahomes’ ability to elevate players around him, there’s at least a decent probability the answer is yes.
If the answer to both these questions is yes, this will solve the Chiefs’ needs at the position for 2022 and possibly even a year or two more. Either way, the long-term composition of the position group still needs to be addressed.