Tyreek Hill trade sends Chiefs in reverse – for now – as rest of AFC West revs up | Opinion

Jarrett Bell
USA TODAY

Here we go again: They did what?

Another installment of the NFL’s offseason-gone-wild surfaced on Wednesday with the blockbuster trade that sent Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins.

Maybe the Dolphins, with their new coach and haul of fresh talent, are on their way to an offseason championship. You know, Dan Snyder can hand the trophy to Stephen Ross. On paper, Miami is sizzling.

Not so in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ string of six consecutive division titles looks to be in serious jeopardy, even with Patrick Mahomes slinging the rock. While every other team in the AFC West has added firepower this month promoting progression – the Las Vegas Raiders brought on Davante Adams, the Denver Broncos are now cooking with Russell Wilson, the Los Angeles Chargers landed Khalil Mack – the Chiefs just subtracted the most explosive player in the NFL from the league’s most prolific offense.

This does not make the Chiefs better. At least, not today.

Hill, aka “the Cheetah,” was that guy who could provide a chunk of yards in a New York minute, given that there’s probably no one in the league who can catch him. See that overtime thriller against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC divisional playoffs, when he took a crossing route and exploded past five defenders en route to a 64-yard TD with roughly a minute left in the fourth quarter. After Buffalo answered with a quick TD, he ignited the game-tying, 13-second drive with a 19-yard haul. He’s coming off a career-best 111 catches and over the past four seasons connected with Mahomes for 43 touchdown receptions.

That’s gone now, along with the threats Hill brought on jet sweeps.

As Bills receiver Stefon Diggs tweeted, “The hell going on…”

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) after the win over the Buffalo Bills during an AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Now what? Travis Kelce is probably still the NFL’s best tight end, but he benefited much from Hill’s presence. There’s still a speed merchant in tow in Mecole Hardman, but he is hardly as complete as Hill. The Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster, but even if the ex-Steeler produces like he did in his best year in Pittsburgh (playing opposite Antonio Brown), he’s not Hill.

Hey, Andy Reid is an offensive genius who has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know. But now the Chiefs coach, with Mahomes and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy in his midst, is so challenged to prove that genius all over again.

At least he will have some more ammo to fuel a different type of NFL analytics. Reid and Co. were surely backed into a corner as contract talks with Hill (who was entering the final year of a three-year, $54 million extension signed in 2019) hit a serious snag. With the wide receiver market reset with the five-year, $140 million deal Las Vegas struck with Adams after last week’s blockbuster deal sent Aaron Rodgers’ prime target west, the Chiefs found an offer they couldn’t refuse in getting five picks from Miami for Hill.

Sure, they could have played out the contract talks and perhaps used a franchise tag next year to keep Hill, but this is choosing one type of risk over another.

The type of contract that Hill received from the Dolphins – four years, $120 million, with $52.53 million guaranteed immediately and approximately $20 million more guaranteed next March, agent/power broker Drew Rosenhaus confirmed to Pro Football Talk – would have devastated the Chiefs' salary cap.

So, here’s NFL moneyball in the raw.

Kansas City, which landed Hill as a fifth-round steal in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to a domestic assault and battery charge, can try filling the new void in the offense and other holes with the first-, second-, two fourth- and sixth-round picks now in their kitty. This year’s draft crop at the position is considered deep, again, which explains to some degree why mega-star wideouts such as Hill and Adams become expendable when their market value clashes with the salary cap, set at $208.2 million for 2022.

The Chiefs can explore veteran receivers on the market (Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry) and perhaps deals can be made to secure a veteran. None of those options are Hill, of course, but the idea undoubtedly is built around supporting the franchise quarterback with a deeper supporting cast.

Maybe in the long run, Hill’s departure will be parlayed into integral pieces for another Super Bowl run. In the short term, subtracting the Cheetah from the mix sure turns up the heat on the Chiefs.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.