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Why did the Kansas City Chiefs trade superstar Tyreek Hill? That's a $120 million question

Charlie Riedel/AP
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill runs up field after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17.

The trade of Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill — one of the team’s most popular players — to the Miami Dolphins raises the question: What do the Chiefs know that fans don’t?

In his six years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Tyreek Hill, whose speed has earned him the nickname “The Cheetah,” did amazing things on the field. He figured to be, along with tight end Travis Kelce, one of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’s primary targets in the 2022 season.

All of that changed when Hill’s agent and the Chiefs reached a stalemate on a contract extension. Now, according to the Associated Press, Hill and Miami have inked a $120 million, four-year contract, meaning Hill will earn almost $24 million annually through 2025.

For context, Davonte Adams, another high-profile wide receiver, was traded last week from the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders offered Adams a five-year deal worth more than $140 million.

In a statement released Wednesday, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said, “This decision was incredibly difficult, but we felt it was a necessary move in the best interest of the team and also for Tyreek.”

Hill has a reputation for making big plays on the field — most recently during Kansas City’s dramatic comeback victory over the Buffalo Bills in this year’s playoffs. And he’s developed a flair for touchdown celebrations, sometimes with a backflip or, in another instance, moving behind a TV camera and acting as a cameraman.

Despite his popularity and skill, the Chiefs chose not to offer Hill the kind of long-term, contractual commitment they’ve made with other stars, such as Mahomes, Kelce and defensive lineman Chris Jones.

Did the Chiefs foresee a drop in production from Hill, who’s 28?

Despite a few nagging injuries that sidelined him from time to time, Hill played no fewer than 12 games in any season. Perhaps team management anticipated the toll Hill’s six years was taking on his body.

Or maybe the team was concerned about off-the-field risks Hill may pose. Hill has kept himself free from any public incident over the last two years.

Hill was in the midst of serving a three-year probation for domestic assault when the Chiefs acquired him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. Then-general manager John Dorsey implored fans to “trust us.”

In his first appearance at the Chiefs’ off-season workouts in the spring of 2016, Hill told reporters, “I did something wrong, and I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Hill added: “Going forward, I just want people to know that I’m a hard-working kid dedicated to what he does and really a good citizen. A good teammate.”

Hill’s name came up again in 2019 when his 3-year-old son with Crystal Espinal suffered a broken arm. Johnson County prosecutor Steve Howe said he believed a crime was committed. However, Howe later dropped his pursuit of criminal charges, and the circumstances under which Hill’s son sustained his injuries were never publicly explained.

“This move will also benefit the Chiefs," Head Coach Andy Reid said in the organization's statement on Wednesday. "We now have (salary) cap space and additional draft picks to grow as a football team.”

While the Chiefs will reap five draft picks from the Dolphins in return for Hill, Kansas City will be answering questions about trading one of its most popular players ever.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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