With Tyreek Hill traded, the Chiefs had to revamp their wide receiver corps

PHOENIX — After signing quarterback Patrick Mahomes to his mega-deal of the century, the Chiefs didn’t have any room under the salary cap to keep dynamic wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Instead of losing him to free agency, the Chiefs traded Hill, a Coffee High graduate, to the Dolphins for five draft picks.

The Chiefs picked up a first-round pick, a second-round pick, two fourth-rounders and a sixth-rounder for Hill, who was a sixth-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Things worked out for Hill, who signed a four-year, $120 million deal with the Dolphins.

Nobody is happier for Tyreek than I am,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said in response to a question from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He made a lot of money and gained a lot of yards. He had a great year. He’s an All-Pro player.”

With Hill in South Florida, the Chiefs rebuilt their wide receiving corps.

“We have a brand new wide receiver (group),” Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who came over from Green Bay as a free agent. “There is always going to be challenges. I think Mecole (Hardman) was the only guy coming back. Him and (Marcus) Kemp were the only two guys that were here before.”

Valdes-Scantling signed a three-year, $30 million deal, and JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a one-year, $3.7 million deal. The Chiefs also made an in-season trade for Kadarius Toney with the Giants.

With Hill gone, Mahomes, who signed a 10-year, $450 million deal in 2022, somehow still managed to lead the NFL in passing. Mahomes passed for 5,250 yards, 41 touchdowns and had 308.8 yards passing per game, which all topped the league.

“Listen, Pat Mahomes is a pretty good quarterback,” Reid said. “We didn’t lose Pat Mahomes, which was a good thing. He makes those guys look good in a lot of ways, and they make him look real good, too. It’s a good relationship.”

Mahomes’ main target was All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who caught 110 passes for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season. But the receivers had to step forward so that defenses could not focus only on stopping Kelce.

Smith-Schuster caught 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns. Valdes-Scantling caught 42 passes for 697 yards, a team-leading 16.4 yards per catch. He added two touchdowns.

Hardman and rookie Skyy Moore added 25 and 22 receptions.

“I’m proud of our guys and the job that they’ve done,” Reid said. “We have a lot of new faces in there. With the exception of Mecole, most of the guys were new guys. I thought they stepped up.”

The wide receivers produced enough to allow Mahomes to keep finding Kelce at crucial times.

“I’m really proud of the way that Pat and Kelce brought the guys into the mix,” Reid said. “They welcomed them in. They worked with them.”

Smith-Schuster came over from Pittsburgh.

“He has a great personality,” Reid said. “We like that addition, that way. He also compliments Kelce. He has that ability to (play) in space (and find) openings. Pat can trust that. He’s sure-handed, and he’s great after the catch.”

Mahomes credited Reid with coming up with a plan for the offense to continue to flourish.

“It’s called Andy Reid,” Mahomes said. “I think you’ve seen over time, Andy Reid has success with whoever’s out there. So, I just follow the plan. I follow the example that he sets. We got a lot of other good receivers, too, so they helped me out a ton as well. With Andy Reid leading the show, you can always have success with that.”

Valdes-Scantling caught six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the AFC title game against the Bengals.

“It worked (against the Bengals),” Valdes-Scantling said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going. We didn’t do anything different from what we were doing all year. I think it was just more so, let’s get him the ball.”

Valdes-Scantling was receptive to learning from Kelce.

“He’s the best tight end to do it, so of course, you can learn different things from a guy like that,” Valdez-Scantling said. “Route-running is route-running, no matter who’s doing it, whether it’s a running back or a tight end or receiver. He’s one of the best route-runners to ever put on a jersey. Of course, I can learn things from him.”

The new Chiefs had to pick up the complex passing attack.

“We have a lot of smart guys, a lot of talented guys,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Everyone has a unique skill set, so it was pretty easy to find places for us to play.”

The Chiefs have fun with it, too. They create plays such as the spinning-huddle play they ran against the Raiders late in the season.

“The amount of times that we’ve created plays on those Saturdays, it’s crazy,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I can’t even give you one example because it happens every single week. Every week, we are kind of putting in a play to try and trick the defense to see if it works. The following week we might put it into a game plan.”

It also helped that the new receivers have a great deal of respect for Mahomes.

“We have a Hall of Fame quarterback over there, why not listen to him,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Do things that he wants to do. Having a guy like that, it’s important for any offense. When you and your coach are on the same page, you and your offensive coordinator are on the same page, everyone is going to be successful.”

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