The Miami Dolphins added fuel to the already bright fire that is the 2022 NFL offseason by trading for two-time alleged domestic abuser, six-time Pro Bowler, and three-time All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. Immediately after finalizing the trade, which sent five draft picks to the Chiefs in exchange for their star receiver, the Dolphins gave Hill a 4-year extension worth $120 million with $72.2 million guaranteed, making Hill the highest paid receiver of all-time based on average annual value — $2 million more per year than Las Vegas Raiders receiver Davante Adams.
Rumors started swirling of Hill’s departure from Kansas City nearly two weeks ago when Hill tweeted this cryptic message:
However, when it became apparent that the Chiefs were not going to be able to make Hill the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, a distinction Hill desperately wanted with his latest contract, extension talks stalled and a trade was inevitable. I just want to point this out. The two highest-paid receivers in the NFL have both been traded away from teams with two of the three highest-paid quarterbacks. There’s something there, I just can’t put it into words yet.
This blockbuster trade carries several implications:
- The Chiefs are more than comfortable with JuJu Smith-Schuster as their No. 1 receiver, even after a shoulder injury forced the former USC Trojan to miss 12 games last year
- Mike McDaniel wants to win ASAP
- This is Tua Tagovailoa’s last chance to prove himself
While Hill to Miami may not seem like a good fit on the surface — after all, Hill is a deep threat and Tagovailoa is known for his low intended air yards — Hill managed to put up 1776 and 13 touchdowns in two seasons with Alex Smith. While Smith had been known for his inability to push the ball downfield, Hill’s presence allowed Smith to take shots downfield more often and in his final season with the Chiefs, Smith finished eighth in the NFL in intended air yards per pass attempt (4.5) among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts. I’ve talked before about how Tagovailoa actually has decent metrics when throwing deep, he just doesn’t do it very often. Hopefully, with Hill in the fold, Tua will be inclined to take more shots. Even if that’s not the case though, Hill’s presence will, at the very least, stretch opposing defenses, giving guys like Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki more room to work with down low. However, this would be the worst-case scenario, because you should never pay a player $30 million a year to be a glorified diversion.
McDaniel seems to be modeling his team after the 49ers in a way. Kyle Shanahan loves speed and ability after the catch. Miami now has the fastest player in the NFL, and arguably the second-fastest player in the league at halfback, Raheem Mostert, as well. The Dolphins have made improvements to their offensive line with the acquisition of Terron Armstead, and although the Dolphins no longer have any picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, they could still look to improve their line in the draft. There are a lot of good O-line prospects this year. It’s not crazy to think one could slip to the third round.
All this is to say that Tagovailoa has no excuses next season. He’s been given everything he could possibly ask for: a great receiving corps, an elite left tackle, a trio of running backs (Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Myles Gaskin) each capable of shouldering a rushing attack when healthy, and an offensive-minded head coach (I still think Brian Flores would’ve been a better option, but that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not trying to open right now). If the Dolphins don’t reach the playoffs this season, Tua needs to go. He is clearly not the answer. I’m not saying they need to win the division by the way, but they need to at least make the playoffs. This roster is far more talented than New England’s and arguably competes with Buffalo’s top to bottom, although Josh Allen is a huge step up from Tagovailoa.
The stage is set for Tagovailoa, and the Dolphins need to see something. There’s a reason they signed Teddy Bridgewater. He’s there in case Tua can’t take the next step toward becoming a franchise quarterback. The leash will likely be tight and short.
For Kansas City, the loss of Tyreek Hill is devastating for their passing attack. They’d already lost their second-leading wide receiver from a year ago, DeMarcus Robinson and now their top wideout is gone as well. That being said, it’s never a good idea to doubt Patrick Mahomes. While the Chiefs’ offense may not be as explosive as it was in years past, Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and Josh Gordon are not a terrible trio of receivers. Travis Kelce will still be a menace for opposing defenses. The team would be fine in its current state. Of course, there’s always the draft as well and with two first-round picks in 2022, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear Chris Olave’s name or George Pickens’ called at pick 29 or 30, both of whom are capable of being the Chiefs’ top wide receiver next season.
I’m not quite ready to give the AFC West to the Broncos or Chargers just yet, but the Chiefs are clearly not the “far and away favorites” that they were this time last year. The Chiefs’ biggest strength was their ability to score at any moment and Hill was a big part of that. It’s a major loss, but not one the Chiefs can’t overcome.