Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreke Hill catches Cleveland Browns defenseman Denzel Ward (21) during a playoff game, Sunday, January 17, 2021. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
KANSAS CITY, Missouri. (AP) — The decision that Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Wyche faced at the end of last season was shockingly simple, but incredibly difficult:
Do they sign wide receiver Tyrek Hill on a long-term contract or trade him?
Two options. However, these are two very different ways of charting a course for the future of the franchise.
Veach pondered the decision for the better part of six weeks, knowing full well that most Chiefs fans want to keep the dynamic playmaker, but that would saddle the club with salary cap problems for years to come.
In late March, he called Dolphins teammate Chris Grier and struck a deal: Hill was heading to South Beach for a package of five draft picks that the Chiefs could use to bolster their roster and much-needed financial flexibility.
“We took a step back and thought, ‘How are we going to make things better on both sides?’ That’s why we decided it was best for us and for Tyrek,” Vych said at the time. “It was kind of the best script for us and for him.”
This may be an understatement.
Hill would eventually become the league’s highest-paid wide receiver, signing a four-year, $120 million contract with the Dolphins that would have limited the Chiefs’ options at large.
And the Chiefs have used their draft capital and financial freedom to fill the roster that will take on the Cincinnati on Sunday night for a fifth straight AFC title game.
The Chiefs used a first-round pick from Miami – after a trade with New England – for Trent McDuffie, whose record is among the best of any rookie cornerback this season. They then used their second round from the Dolphins – after another trade with the Patriots – for wide receiver Sky Moore, who was a versatile offensive addition.
Just as importantly, the Chiefs used the money they would have spent on Hill elsewhere: They signed wide receivers Juju Smith-Shuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling, brought Justin Reid to a safe game, added veteran Carlos Dunlap to assist one of the worst passes in the league. , and they have money left over to improve their depth elsewhere.
“Brett does it like no other, finding and bringing in the people he thinks are right for offense, defense and special teams,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We have full confidence in him as a coaching staff.”
It’s easy to have that trust given the results.
Hill had an incredible season for the Dolphins, catching a career-best 119 passes for 1,710 yards with seven touchdowns. But even though Smith-Schuster finished with just 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns, that still means he supplied Kansas City with about 55% of Hill’s regular season output for about 14% of the cost.
Valdez-Scantling caught a game-tying touchdown in a division win over the Jaguars last weekend, and along with Moore and Smith-Schuster, the trio helped the Chiefs lead the league in passing, scoring and all-out offense.
On the other hand, Dunlap helped the Chiefs hit 55 sacks in the regular season, which is second in the league behind 31 sacks last year. Justin Reed proved to be a calming yet physical defensive presence.
“All the guys stepped up,” Chiefs wide receiver coach Joe Blameyer said, “because there were a few sorties, not just Tyreke, to basically catch up with everyone and accelerate to where we are today so we can just keep going like a crime.” and the guys we invited bought into it.”
Ten months later, it would be hard to argue that Veach made the wrong decision to trade Hill.
It’s kind of a monumental decision that the Bengals will face soon enough.
They have already announced plans to strike a long-term deal in the offseason with Joe Burrow, who could receive up to $50 million a year. And with that kind of investment in their quarterback, the Bengals will have to decide what to do with their pending free agents: starting quarterback Eli Apple, safety Vaughn Bell and Jesse Bates III, and tight end Hayden Hurst need to go public. , as well as backups such as Tre Flowers and Samaje Perine.
A slew of other rookies – wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Ty Higgins, as well as DJ Reeder – will be playing free after next season.
The problem of making the numbers work became apparent in August, when Bates stayed away from the Bengals over a contract dispute. He ended up showing up for training camp after signing a franchise tender worth around $13 million instead of sitting out the entire season. When asked why a deal was not reached, he replied: “That’s not my question to answer.”
“There’s a business side to it,” Bengals coach Zach Taylor admitted at the time, “and that kind of plays a part.”
Just like it was with the Chiefs and Hill last offseason.