The Chiefs’ decision to trade Hill opened up the future for success

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The decision facing Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach at the end of last season was surprisingly simple but brutally difficult:

Will they sign wide receiver Tyreek Hill to a long-term deal or trade him?

Two options. Two very different ways to chart a course for the franchise’s future, though.

Veach mulled over the decision for the better part of six weeks, knowing full well that most Chiefs fans wanted to keep the dynamic playmaker, but it would saddle the club with salary-cap issues for years to come.

In late March, he got on the phone with his Dolphins counterpart Chris Grier and made the deal: Hill was headed to South Beach for a package of five draft picks, which the Chiefs could use to bolster their roster, and much-needed financial flexibility.

“We took a step back and thought, ‘How are we going to improve on both sides?’ And that’s why we decided what was best for us and what was best for Tyreek,” Veach said at the time. “It was kind of a best-case scenario for us and for him.”

That could be an understatement.

Hill eventually became the highest-paid wide receiver in the league, signing a four-year, $120 million contract with the Dolphins that would have limited what the Chiefs could do in free agency.

And the Chiefs used their draft capital and financial freedom to replenish a roster that will face Cincinnati on Sunday night for its fifth straight AFC title game.

The Chiefs used Miami’s first-round pick, following a trade with New England, on Trent McDuffie, whose metrics are among the best of any rookie cornerback this season. They then used their second round from the Dolphins, after another trade with the Patriots, on wide receiver Skyy Moore, who has been a versatile addition to the offense.

Just as important, the Chiefs used money they would have spent on Hill elsewhere: They signed wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, brought in safety Justin Reid, added veteran Carlos Dunlap to help out in one of the Worst pass rushes in the league. , and had money left over to improve his depth elsewhere.

“Brett does better than anyone at finding people and bringing them in who he thinks will fit on offense, defense and special teams,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We have full confidence in him as a coaching staff.”

It’s easy to have that confidence given the results.

Hill had an incredible season for the Dolphins, catching 119 passes for 1,710 yards with a career-high seven TDs. But even though Smith-Schuster finished with just 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns, that still means he supplied Kansas City with roughly 55% of Hill’s regular-season production at roughly 14% of cost.

Valdes-Scantling caught the deciding touchdown in last weekend’s division win over the Jaguars, and along with Moore and Smith-Schuster, the trio helped the Chiefs lead the league in passing attack, scoring attack and total attack.

On the other hand, Dunlap helped the Chiefs to 55 sacks in the regular season, which ranked second in the league, after just 31 the previous year. Justin Reid proved to be a soothing yet physical presence in the defensive backfield.

“All the guys stepped up,” Chiefs wide receivers coach Joe Bleymaier said, “because there were a number of departures, not just from Tyreek, to basically catch up and accelerate to where we are today, to that we could keep going as an offense, and the guys we brought in bought it.”

Ten months later, it would be hard to argue that Veach didn’t make the right decision to trade Hill.