Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Lead Writer – Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
When I woke up on March 24, I assumed the highlight of my day would be people wishing me a happy birthday. 34 would be a year of many firsts for me – getting married, travelling to Europe, several new business ventures – it was setting up to be the proverbial “best year ever”.
Then, the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for 5 draft picks, including a first and second round pick in this Thursday’s draft. It’s still been the best year ever so far, and the shock of losing a player like Tyreek eventually faded and even turned into excitement. The Chiefs had (and still have) 12 draft picks to play with for this Thursday’s Draft, including the number 29 and 30 overall on Thursday night. This is a position that KC has not been in during the Brett Veach era, and frankly one that should excite Chiefs fans across the Kingdom.
Last Wednesday, however, some cause for consideration joined the chat. After it was rumored that Terry McLaurin, AJ Brown, and Deebo Samuel were unhappy with their current rookie deals (all were drafted in 2019 – Brown and Samuel in the second round, McLaurin in the third) and wanted extensions or trades to teams that would be willing to extend them and reward them handsomely as other receivers had experienced in free agency and trades thus far this offseason. The Christian Kirk effect was taking hold of the young wideout market and the tides of change were shifting. About a day after this news broke, Deebo Samuel – a first team All-Pro offensive weapon in 2021 – alerted ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that he had flat out told the San Francisco 49ers that he wanted a trade.
The Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill and got a ton of draft capital in return for him.
Deebo Samuel requests a trade from the San Francisco 49ers, a team with 9 picks in the 2022 Draft but none before the 61st overall selection in round 2 and a gaping hole at wide receiver if they see Samuel leave.
Speculation, as always, was rampant. Can the Chiefs make a deal to bring in Deebo? Will the contract he warrants make sense to the Chiefs if they weren’t willing to go high enough to keep Tyreek Hill? What has Samuel actually earned as far as market value goes at wide receiver in just 3 years in the league? One thing is for sure – in theory, a weapon like Samuel in Andy Reid’s offense with Patrick Mahomes throwing and handing him the football could be something that could certainly dull the sting of losing a player like Tyreek Hill.
But what does Samuel want if and when he is traded? The reports have been mixed on that. Some reports have pegged the demands to the 49ers at $25 million annually. Others have stated that his intention is to be the highest paid non-QB in the NFL. Afterall, he is likely the most versatile weapon in the league that doesn’t reside under center. That is if he elects to maintain his position as a dual threat – conflicting reports have had him requesting more of a “receiver only” type role. Just one man’s opinion, but that limits the damage he can inflict to a defense, and the jury is certainly out on if the value he is demanding holds up if Samuel is strictly a route runner and not willing to mix it up in the misdirection game carrying the ball as well. Either way – $25 million or highest paid non-QB – I would say, and this is not groundbreaking information, that the Chiefs should be out at that point. If you’re not willing to pay Tyreek Hill that type of money (allegedly) why pay someone who will have a learning curve picking up a new system? Have we not all heard about how loaded this receiver class is in the draft?
Consider one thing – those numbers may be a little fudged. Alternative reports had the 49ers offering Samuel an extension of $19 million annually. If you’re Deebo Samuel, and you see Christian Kirk get $18 million a year from the Jags and you know you’re not on the same planet as Christian Kirk, would you not laugh at that offer as well? There were also rumors that 49ers brass (specifically John Lynch) offended Samuel at a dinner with teammates and other front office personnel when he called into question his value to the team and referred to him as a “gimmick” player. This is more of a rumor mill story than a corroborated fact, but with Lynch’s track record that wouldn’t be the most surprising thing to have happen.
So if the number is north of $19 million, but not quite $25 million, does it make sense for Kansas City to consider it? I think there are two lines you cannot cross in trying to bring Samuel to the Chiefs.
If you’re Brett Veach, you cannot trade both first round picks for Deebo
The Chiefs needs help at wide receiver. No one – fan or front office – can deny that. The hole left by Tyreek Hill is not one that can be filled with the additions of Juju Smith-Schuster or Marquez Valdes-Scantling or the hopeful emergence of Mecole Hardman, Josh Gordon, Daurice Fountain, or any other combination of wideouts on the Chiefs current roster. Sure, the Chiefs are set up in current state to be able to distribute the ball more evenly and attack from multiple angles with Travis Kelce still doing Travis Kelce things, but another weapon is needed. Deebo would plug in well and become a clear-cut number 1 wide receiver for this offense, but it can’t come at the expense of sacrificing improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
One, if not both, of the first-round picks on Thursday should be used on defense – period. The Chiefs right now only have L’Jarius Sneed, Rashad Fenton, and DeAndre Baker who have seen any type of significant game action in the cornerback room, and if the season started today the starting defensive line would be Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Derrick Nnadi, and Mike Danna (or some combination of those 4 with Khalen Saunders and Tershawn Wharton mixed in). If we thought that the defense was bad in the first 7 week of 2021, wait until they trot that unit out for 2022.
You cannot pay Deebo $25+ million per year
This probably makes a little too much sense, but we’ll still go into the “why” behind it. As it stands (according to overthecap.com) the Chiefs have about $18.1 million in cap space available in 2022 before signing any draft picks they may bring in. For 2023, they currently have $38.9 million, and in 2024 they have $130.3 million.
The problem is they have 22 players under contract through 2023 and only 14 through 2024. Once you get to 2025, with current contracts, only Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Joe Thuney are secured to contracts with the team.
Needless to say the reason that the Chiefs let Tyreek Hill explore trade options and ultimately end up as a Miami Dolphin was so they did no shackle themselves to another huge contract for a franchise player that limits their ability to continually build a young, competitive roster around Patrick Mahomes.
The real elephant in the room, though, is simple – has Deebo earned this type of contract? There’s always two sides of the coin. If Christian Kirk “earned” $18 million, it’s easy to argue that Deebo has earned a deal significantly larger than that. He’s a game changer, and one could propose that had Kyle Shanahan not shut his brain off in the last 15 minutes of Super Bowl 54 that we could be talking about a player who is coming off of a 1st Team All Pro season with a Super Bowl MVP already under his belt. Deebo ranked third in the NFL in receiver production last year and put up some otherworldly numbers across the board – 77 catches, 1,405 yards and 6 touchdowns to go along with 365 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. 1,770 yards rushing and receiving and 14 touchdowns. That’s absolutely incredible. He also had an impressive rookie season in 2019, but played only 7 games in 2020 with issues stemming from a foot fracture as well as issues with COVID.
He’s also been injury prone in the past – missing time during his college days at South Carolina with multiple hamstring injuries – something that also plagued him in 2020 – groin strains, and a broken leg in 2017. While Deebo was certainly durable last year, you have to consider all of this in making that type of investment in a player.
If you’re Brett Veach and your plan is to snag a receiver with one of your first round picks on Thursday, sending a first and maybe a third (maybe, I would think a second would be what San Fran would demand if anything) to the 49ers for Samuel would be worth it if the contract extension can be worked to $22-23 million total annually with an incentive laden deal and a lower guaranteed number. There could be a way for the Chiefs to sweeten the pot by throwing in a player like Mecole Hardman along with picks to give San Francisco a player to immediately plug in.
Anyone who is married to the idea of keeping Mecole rather than including him in a deal that would minimize draft capital expenditures and bring Deebo to KC on a reasonable extension is delusional. If a player like Mecole makes the deal work, you make the deal.
If I were a betting man, which I’m not – I’m a retired gambler, I would say the odds of Deebo Samuel opening the season at Arrowhead are slim to none. I would venture to say that a team desperate for success – like the New York Jets – will likely give way too much and turn around and pay way too much for Mr. Samuel’s services. But there are ways for the Chiefs to make it happen. It will all depend on if it jives with the architecture behind Brett Veach’s reconstruction of the wide receiver room. One thing is for sure – we will all find out over the course of the next 72 hours.