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Why Trade a Great Player?

Fans are up in arms in Green Bay and Kansas City. Two top five WR’s were moved in the last two weeks. WHY?

It’s obvious what makes people conclude that by acquiring two of the best wide receivers in the game, the Miami Dolphins and the Las Vegas Raiders are “all in” in their pursuit of building a champion? Does that mean the teams who traded WR’s Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill are not?

These decisions cannot be viewed in a vacuum, but for the purpose of this column, let’s assess what was so attractive for the Packers and Chiefs to make these trades, pulling the plug on negotiating extensions with players that are almost impossible to replace.

I have been part of these decisions in the past and can picture how the conversations might have gone down.To start with, it should not go without notice that both teams are operated by confident, and successful play callers. The Chiefs and Packers both have offensive minded head coaches who are controlling and very reliant on their own abilities to scheme and put together game plans. These two coaches also happen to have the two most accomplished and, as of today, talented passers in the business.

Internal discussions had to result in doubling down on these two combinations. Aaron Rodgers and Pat Mahomes give their teams more than enough reason to think they will not take steps backward and rely even more on the system/coach and their skill sets.

Moves like this would not and should not be made without conversations with the QB’s that orchestrate these offenses. Suffice to say these teams would never make a deal of this magnitude, subtracting a star QB’s best weapon, without having an exchange of ideas with its QB.

The Chiefs and Packers understand clearly what they are giving up. They know how good these two receivers are. A combined 11 Pro Bowls and five first team All-Pro selections are hard to turn your back on as a team.

They also understand that every position on the football field has value and this value is determined by doing a risk assessment, combined with the intricacies of the offensive scheme, in this case, that results in a series of pros and cons. Confident and capable offensive systems are built to change parts and endure injury or change. Both trading teams concluded that a passing game is not built around one receiver and the willingness to commit $25M plus to a single WR, might not make sense. Contrary to popular belief, the salary cap is 100% real.

One indicator of life without Hill in KC came from Matt Verderame at Fansided. “Hill missed four games in 2019. Mahomes averaged 363 yards passing per game, eight TD’s and threw 0 ints, in those four games. The system matters,” he said.

I use this reasoning when describing how hard it might be to commit the amount of cap dollars it takes to sign contracts of this size and nature. In Adam's case, his new deal with the Raiders carries a first-year cap hit of $8M. The hard part comes in years 4/5. To get to the correct average per year, cap numbers will be about $40M+ in the last years of this deal, and this is without any restructures, which could always push more money out to future years. For a player that will be 33 or 34 years old, these numbers will in all likelihood be problematic. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it’s a choice that teams have to make. Hill is two years younger so that’s a plus for the Dolphins.

The other part of the Chiefs and Packers decision making process that led to moving on from players of this caliber could just come from human nature kicking in. I have made dozens of deals for millions and millions of dollars in my career, but committing $25M+ to a non QB, in the big scheme of things, would give me great hesitation.

It’s akin to a commitment of marriage instead of just continuing to date. Step off the plank and gone is cap flexibility, filling needs at other positions, etc. Call it what you want and yes, maybe it’s just a control thing, but General Managers love to have those draft picks to replace and work with. Especially in a draft like this year when many options are available in the first two rounds.

Think of being backed into a corner and having other team building options that are now limited. Don’t get me wrong, I love and value these kinds of players, but everyone has a tipping point. NFL decision makers are no different when tasked with choices they make to build their teams. They want options and YES, they might be scared of COMMITMENT too, just like the rest of the dating world.

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