Well, that escalated quickly. Early Wednesday morning, it was reported the Chiefs and Tyreek Hill could not come to an agreement and Hill was allowed to seek a trade. By Wednesday afternoon, Hill was a Miami Dolphin.
Reported deal: Chiefs trade Hill to Dolphins for 2022 first-, second, and fourth-round picks, and 2023 fourth- and sixth-round picks, Dolphins give Hill four year/$120 extension with $72.2 million guaranteed and $75 million over the first three years.
Breakdowns in the talks between the Chiefs and Hill centered around how to make him the top-paid receiver in the league following the Davante Adams trade and extension. Even if some of the Adams figures were propped up with later non-guaranteed years, that $28.5 million average figure was out there and that was what Hill was searching for and ultimately got in Miami.
Hill will reportedly get a four-year/$120 million extension with the Dolphins ($30 million per year) with $72.2 million guaranteed and $75 million over the first three years ($25 million per year). All of those figures surpass Adams. That last non-guaranteed year would sit at $45 million and if Hill is still playing at a high level, that would be pushed into another extension. If he’s not, that’s the point to move on.
There are some differences comparing Adams to Hill in these trades. Hill is a year-and-a-half younger but as a player so reliant on his speed, his skillset might not age as well as Adams’s.
The Miami Impact
This is a significant haul, both in draft capital and money to give up for a wide receiver, but Miami had both to spare. The 2022 picks knock the Dolphins out of the first two rounds, but they only give up Day 3 picks outside of that. Thanks to the No. 3 overall pick trade last offseason, the Dolphins have San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2023, which still gives them two first-round picks next year.
Hill is the rare wide receiver whose speed is enough to completely change the geometry of both the offense and defense. That’s true when he’s alone but now he’ll be paired with Jaylen Waddle in Miami, a young receiver who might come close to that ability. The speed on offense, which will also include Cedrick Wilson, Mike Gesicki Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert, is arguably unmatched.
Of course, there are questions about how this speed will mesh with a quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, who had the third-lowest average depth of target among 31 qualified quarterbacks in 2021, above only Ben Roethlisberger and Jared Goff.
The less said about the 2021 Miami offense the better, but the RPO-heavy structure was put in place to make up for a ton of limitations, including the offensive line. It hamstrung the upside of the offense, kept Waddle as a slant and quick out threat, and made most of it completely unwatchable.
Only 7.7% of Tagovailoa’s pass attempts traveled 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, which was the second-lowest rate in the league above just Daniel Jones. But when Tagovailoa did throw deep — just 30 times — it tended to go quite well. Tagovailoa completed 50% of those passes and led the league in EPA per attempt (1.03) on those throws. He’s also had a history of effectively throwing deep, going back to college.
Part of that college production was written off by having incredible talent surrounding him and throwing to wide-open receivers and, well, that might be the exact same situation he finds himself in now.
Both Hill and Waddle have the short-area quickness to win on shorter routes, like slants, that will allow those quick throws to be an effective part of the offense.
Head coach Mike McDaniel comes from the San Francisco offense that used quick dropbacks with Jimmy Garoppolo as a play-action replacement to take advantage of space in the middle of the field. Last season, the 49ers used a short dropback 64% of the time, which was the fifth-highest in the league per Sports Info Solutions. The Dolphins were at just 55%, which ranked 18th.
Tagovailoa threw 60.8% of his passes within 2.5 seconds of the snap, per TruMedia, but only ranked 18th in EPA per dropback on those throws. Per Next Gen Stats, Tagovailoa threw a league-high 19.3% of his passes into tight coverage (a yard or fewer of separation), which is almost unheard of with his low aDOT. But so much was quick and forced in the offense. The Shanahan-style of offense is built around creating space in that area. Having better answers on those types of plays could help all involved.
One area where the combination of Hill and Waddle could help is in the intermediate game. There could be endless crossers between the two, which would give defenses fits in the middle of the field. Among the 31 qualified passers, Tagovailoa was the only quarterback with negative EPA on throws between 11-19 air yards, which included a league-worst completion percentage (41.9%) and five interceptions.
Last season. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were fourth and fifth in receiving yards on 11-19 air yard throws with the 49ers. Hill ranked 14th.
Hill also fundamentally changes how defenses have to play against the offense. Hill did so much of his damage as the No. 3 (most inside) in trips but also has tied for 15th on receptions as an isolated receiver (30), per SIS. There are nearly endless lineup combinations the Dolphins could throw out in trips from 11 personnel with Hill, Waddle, Wilson, and Gesicki switching up who plays what role.
Should defenses start to sell out in two-high as they did against the Chiefs (this could take a while for a legitimate deep passing game to be a consistent threat), the Dolphins now have an improved offensive line and a Shanahan wide-zone run game to take advantage of light boxes. If defenses try to defend the run, a play-action game should open up.
A lot of this hinges on development from Tagovailoa in Year 3 but the Dolphins also have contingency plans in place. Teddy Bridgewater was brought in this offseason and he had a hot stretch to start 2021 throwing some of the deepest passes in the league with the Broncos. Should none of that work, Miami has those two 2023 first-round picks that would offer flexibility in a batter draft class for another rookie passer.
Kansas City Fallout
There was arguably no better scheme-player-coach match than Hill and Patrick Mahomes with Andy Reid. That group forced defenses to put additional resources into defending against the deep pass and while the Chiefs had some ups and downs working through it, they remained as one of the league’s best passing offenses.
The combination of Hill and Mahomes opened up so many things for the Chiefs and defenses selling out to stop the deep pass was warranted against that pair. Since 2018, Hill accounted for 38.3% of Kansas City’s targets of 20 or more air yards. Over that span, no player had more targets (118), receptions (50), yards (1,875), or touchdowns (19) on deep passes than Hill.
That’s an element that will be hard to replicate or replace in aggregate. The Chiefs thought they had a Hill-type player in Mecole Hardman when he was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but that speed never played the same as Hill’s on the field.
But even as Hill brings an irreplaceable skill, the workings of the Chiefs offense hasn’t completely changed without him on the field. Mahomes has been significantly better with Hill (0.26 EPA per dropback) but his production without him (0.19) is still quite good and would rank second in the league since 2018. The way in which Mahomes plays doesn’t completely change, either, with more passes thrown 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage on Mahomes’s near 600 dropbacks without Hill on the field.
Patrick Mahomes with & without Tyreek Hill, 2018-2021
|On/Off||EPA/Dropback||At/Behind Line %||Short % (1-10)||Intermediate % (11-19)||Deep % (20+)|
Of course, part of that is due to the shifting structure of the offense over the past year and a half when defenses were selling out to stop Hill from winning deep, which turned him into more of a short and intermediate target.
Jokingly, someone posted on Twitter that the Chiefs solved the two-high problem by getting rid of Hill, but it would not actually be a surprise if defenses so relax a bit on that front, which could open up more downfield shots on the sidelines from Mahomes.
It’s also hard to fault Kansas City for refusing to hit the top of the elevated market for Hill. Deals for Mahomes, Chris Jones, Orlando Brown, and Frank Clark currently occupy the top of the Chiefs’ cap and while they could continue to move money around in a Saints fashion, leaving some future cap flexibility could help. Moving on from Hill opens up $20.4 million in 2022.
Like the Packers, the Chiefs find themselves in need for a wide receiver, both in free agency and the draft. But unlike Green Bay, Kansas City has Travis Kelce, who can easily serve that role in the short term. There have already been rumors of interest in former Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who would bring speed alongside Kelce and new addition Juju Smith-Schuster, whose slot role is now more defined in the offense.
With back-to-back first-round picks (29 and 30) plus the 50th overall pick in the second round, the Chiefs are in a position to go hard on the receiver class, which features a few players who could excel in Kansas City. Alabama’s Jameson Williams stands out as the closest this draft has to a Hill-type player, but he’s coming off a torn ACL. Georgia’s George Pickens has recovered from his ACL tear and could be an option. Later in the draft, Boise State’s Kalil Shakir or Virginia Tech’s Tre Turner could also be depth options.
Hill is a unique talent that aided so much of what the Chiefs wanted to do on offense, but at the same time, thanks to the quarterback the Chiefs are also in a position to succeed without him. It’s going to look different, but with Mahomes, Kansas City has the ability to make things go and take multiple swings for how to fill in a receiver in an offense that should still be among the league’s best with high picks and cap space to work with.