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As the AFC West’s teams keep adding talent, the division leader for the last six years traded away one of its best players.
After failing to negotiate a contract extension with Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs traded the wide receiver to the Miami Dolphins for five draft picks over the next two years.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is obviously the most important player on the Chiefs, but Hill was likely right behind him.
“Tyreek is the best receiver I’ve ever seen play the game, man,” tight end Travis Kelce said, “and that’s without the ball in his hands and with the ball in his hands. He’s the ultimate fighter.”
While recording 479 catches and 56 receiving touchdowns during his entire Chiefs tenure, Hill has surpassed 1,180 receiving yards in four of his last five seasons with Kansas City.
Perhaps the fastest player in NFL history, Hill formed a perfect combination with Mahomes’ powerful arm.
But Hill was more than just a burner. He had great ability to track the ball, something he attributed to playing center field growing up.
The Chiefs used him on jet sweeps or sometimes ran him in motion as a decoy just to force a defenses to focus on him and thus freeing up other players. Kelce alluded to that latter skill when emphasizing Hill’s ability without the ball in his hands.
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Because of Hill’s myriad abilities, the Chiefs had one of the most feared offenses in the NFL, but the Chiefs’ grip on the division they have owned for six straight years might be loosening.
In fact, due to the big-name players that their divisional opponents had acquired this offseason, the Chiefs’ hold already had been more tenuous.
The Denver Broncos added quarterback Russell Wilson, the Los Angeles Chargers bolstered their defense by adding Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson and the Las Vegas Raiders added Chandler Jones and Davante Adams.
Adams signed a five-year, $140 million contract to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in football.
The Dolphins are reportedly going to sign the 28-year-old Hill to an extension to rival or perhaps top that.
The upside is that the Chiefs now have freed up about $20 million in salary cap space, and by dealing Hill, they acquire the Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick (No. 29), a 2022 second-round pick (No. 50), a 2022 fourth-round pick, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.
And this year’s draft is loaded in receiving talent.
But finding a replacement for Hill won’t be easy.
Hill always had elite speed. He ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at his college pro day. While at Coffee High in Douglas, Georgia, he ran the 200 meters in 20.14 seconds in 2012 — the second fastest high school mark at the time and one that would have placed him sixth at that year’s Olympics Games.
What was unusual is that someone so loaded with fast-twitch muscles could have such endurance, something head coach Andy Reid often praised.
In addition to his physical skills, he has a great work ethic.
Hill entered the NFL as a running back/returner before refining his route running and honing his fundamentals (like dropping his hips at the top of the route and creating separation at the line of scrimmage) to become a complete receiver.
“He’s really evolved his game,” Mahomes said.
Now in the challenging AFC West, the Chiefs will have to evolve theirs.