Analysis

Chiefs trade Tyreek Hill to Dolphins: Who are the biggest winners and losers?

It was a lot to hope that maybe one day could go by in the NFL without another blockbuster move dominating the headlines. Then the Kansas City Chiefs decided they couldn't work out a contract extension with Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Before we knew it, a bidding war ensued, with the Chiefs ultimately sending Hill to Miami for five draft picks, including a first-, second- and fourth-round selection in April's draft. Hill wound up becoming the highest-paid receiver in the league -- with a deal worth $120 million over four years, including $72.2 million guaranteed -- and all this happened less than a week after Davante Adams briefly held that title after a trade that sent him from Green Bay to Las Vegas.

With the way this offseason has played out, nothing -- literally nothing -- should stun football fans on the transactions front. For all the excitement that ensued during the postseason, the last few weeks have been arguably more thrilling for anybody who follows this sport. It wasn't a shock that the Chiefs dealt Hill, largely because they didn't want to commit that kind of money at a time when they're trying to be judicious in managing their salary cap. It's just that the move was one more example of how aggressive teams have become in doing whatever it takes to compete for a championship.

The deal makes sense for the Dolphins because they needed a dominant receiver. It works for the Chiefs because they've already handed out an assortment of massive contracts over the last couple years and the money dries up sooner or later. So one team got better in the short term. The other is hoping to use all those picks to help restock a roster that still includes star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

These are some of the more obvious takeaways from Wednesday's trade. Here are some others, in what is becoming a weekly installment of winners and losers ...

WINNERS

1
Brett-Veach-3/15/2019
Brett Veach
Kansas City Chiefs · GM

Kansas City's general manager knew this day was coming eventually. If the Chiefs wanted to keep contending for championships, they were going to have to part ways with popular players who'd become too expensive. Not just aging veterans like former Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, who wasn't re-signed and is still a free agent. Stars like Tyreek Hill. Give Veach credit for recognizing the danger in trying to make Hill the highest-paid receiver in the game. If the Chiefs had capitulated to those demands, they'd be courting the kind of salary cap hell that has ruined many teams. Veach already has one difficult negotiation to contend with -- left tackle Orlando Brown wants to be the highest-paid player at his position -- and the Chiefs have other needs to address. Veach can start attacking those holes with a strong haul of draft picks. He's now in the market for a new No. 1 receiver. But he's also put his franchise in a better place for the future with such a bold move.

2
Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · QB

No more excuses here. The Dolphins' third-year quarterback has a new offensive-minded head coach, the best left tackle in free agency (Terron Armstead) and now one of the top three wide receivers in the league. This is about as close to being back at Alabama as Tagovailoa can get. The addition of Hill gives Miami's offense a much-needed infusion of playmaking ability. The Dolphins already had some promising young receivers who are strong after the catch, including second-year wideout Jaylen Waddle and free-agent acquisition Cedrick Wilson. Hill is next level in that department. He can dominate teams deep or by catching a 5-yard hitch and turning it into an 80-yard touchdown. There isn't a receiver in the game who's more dangerous with the ball in his hands.

3
Miami Dolphins new head coach Mike McDaniel taps the microphone, which hadn't yet been turned on, as he prepares to speak at an introductory press conference, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Miami Dolphins announced on Feb. 6 that they had hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as their new head coach. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Mike McDaniel
Miami Dolphins · HC

The Dolphins' new head coach couldn't have landed in a better spot, for all the reasons just listed above. The talent he's getting in Hill is undeniable. What makes this a great day for McDaniel is all the imaginative ways he can unleash his new star receiver. McDaniel just left a franchise in San Francisco that found all sorts of creative ways to maximize the skills of All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Hill will open up the strong run game that McDaniel so badly wants to build with this team, and he'll make his young, inconsistent quarterback look a whole lot better. 

4
Mecole Hardman
Kansas City Chiefs · WR

The Chiefs have been hoping for big things from this fourth-year receiver ever since he came into the NFL in 2019. Back then, he was a raw, fleet-footed talent trying to grow up quickly. Heading into the 2022 season, he's still a raw, fleet-footed talent trying to grow up quickly. Let's get right to the point: Hardman will get first crack at Hill's old spot. He's actually performed well when given the chance to be featured in Andy Reid's offense. The problem is that he's been far too erratic when the Chiefs aren't designing plays for him. So now he gets a shot at seeing more targets as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. What he does with that opportunity will determine plenty about where he's playing in 2023.

LOSERS

1
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB

The Chiefs' star quarterback will enter his first season in the league without one of his two favorite weapons. How he deals with this will say a lot about where he's at in the next level of his maturation. The pairing of Hill's deep speed with Mahomes's rocket right arm made the Kansas City offense frightening for years. As close as Mahomes is with tight end Travis Kelce, the quarterback more often looked for Hill when he needed a big play downfield, usually after some kind of wild improvisation. Mahomes and the Chiefs have to figure out who fills that void now. This also is part of the deal with being a franchise quarterback. If you're on the level of Mahomes, you often get one or two top receivers to throw to because a star signal-caller consumes so much of the cap space. Mahomes is beyond the point where he needs to be surrounded by a wealth of weapons. He's entered the space where he needs to be the guy who makes lesser players better.

2
Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs · TE

This future Hall of Famer's life just got a lot harder. He's still capable of playing at a high level, as he's coming off his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season (a league record for tight ends). He's also achieved those numbers by working in tandem with Hill in the Chiefs' passing attack. When teams gave Hill more attention on the deep routes, Kelce had room to operate inside. When Kelce started going off, Hill found more opportunities for himself. This year is going to be a lot different. You can bet every defense the Chiefs face will start off with the mandate of containing Kelce. That means more pounding on a 32-year-old body that started to show more signs of wear and tear this past season. The chemistry will still be there with Mahomes. The production might be different than what we've come to expect.

3
Buffalo Bills new general manager Brandon Beane addresses the media during a NFL football press conference, Friday, May 12, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Brandon Beane
Buffalo Bills · GM

Buffalo's general manager finds himself in the seat that Veach and Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst just occupied: trying to negotiate a new contract with a star receiver as that market is going crazy. Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs currently has two years remaining on his deal. His average annual salary is $14.4 million. That puts him a long way from the universe that Hill and Adams now occupy -- like in the next solar system over. Beane already has said the team wants to work out a new deal with Diggs, largely because it'd give Buffalo more salary cap flexibility down the road. But at these prices, those talks are going to be far more taxing. That doesn't mean Diggs will surpass Hill or Adams in average salary per year. It does mean he's going to want more than the free-agent deal that paid Jacksonville's Christian Kirk $18 million annually.

4
DeVante Parker
Miami Dolphins · WR

There are only so many footballs and targets to go around. There are even less if you're a former first-round pick who's surpassed 1,000 receiving yards only once in seven seasons. Parker has been a solid receiver, but Miami clearly realized it needed more juice in its passing game. The Dolphins have now spent a top-10 pick on one receiver (Waddle in 2021), used some salary cap space to sign another (a three-year, $22.8 million deal for Cedrick Wilson) and given away five picks and a boatload of money for Hill. What should this tell Parker? His role in this offense just became substantially smaller.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter.

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