When the news came through that the Kansas City Chiefs were trading future Hall of Famer wide receiver Tyreek Hill, it was genuinely shocking. Recent developments with other star wide receivers at teams around the NFL suggests that the difficult position the Chiefs found themselves in isn’t just isolated to them.
News emerged this week per Adam Schefter that Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin would skip on-field off-season programs because they wanted new contracts. A few days later, it was reported by Jeff Darlington that Samuel had requested a trade out of San Francisco.
The situation the 49ers now find themselves in is eerily similar to where the Chiefs were just a few weeks ago, and it’s a conundrum that other teams around the NFL are going to face too.
There’s a growing number of teams forced to deal with overwhelming costs at wide receiver these days, which leads to some uncomfortable decisions.
The Davante Adams trade and deal changed everything. Green Bay traded him to the Las Vegas Raiders, where he promptly signed a five-year, $140 million contract at an average of $28.5 million per year. It was a benchmark that Hill wanted to eclipse, and it was a price the Chiefs were not willing to pay.
Hill was traded to Miami for a swathe of draft picks, and he signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension with the Dolphins, averaging $30 million per year – crucially, more than Adams will earn. It was a tough decision for the Chiefs to make, as the Packers before them, and one that other teams will now face too.
Deals for wide receivers have gone through the roof this offseason and it leaves teams with star wideouts in a tricky predicament, especially those that are in the hunt for a Super Bowl. The Chiefs would undoubtedly be a better team with Hill on it, and Adams, Samuel, Brown, and McLaurin would unquestionably make any team better too – but is the money it takes to get them worth it?
For Kansas City, the answer was obviously no.
Teams like the Dolphins and the Raiders can afford to dish out these big contracts for a superstar. However, for teams like the Chiefs, Packers, 49ers, and Titans who need to share the money with other stars, it’s a much tougher call to make. K.C. copped a fair amount of flak from Chiefs Kingdom about the trade, and understandably so—how could they willingly trade away the most explosive player in the NFL, a future Hall of Famer, and a cornerstone of their offense?
Perhaps the Chiefs learned a lesson from the Frank Clark deal in that they didn’t want to lock themselves into a huge contract that could bite them down the road. Hill is obviously far, far more valuable than Clark. But both players are 28, and with one huge contract already causing them headaches, perhaps they decided the risk with the price Hill was demanding was too high.
The 49ers might trade Samuel, or they might not. Brown is probably unlikely to be moved from Tennessee, but Chiefs fans would have said the exact same thing about Hill before he was traded. But those teams now face the exact same predicament the Chiefs found themselves in and they too will have to make a tough choice on how to spend their money.
At the time the Hill trade seemed totally absurd, but now it looks like the start of an emerging trend where teams will have to make tough calls in an era when wide receiver contracts are soaring. Let’s hope the Chiefs made the right decision.