According to information coming to light on Thursday, the possibility that Hill could be traded had been circulating across the league for almost a week — ever since the Green Bay Packers had traded wideout Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders last Thursday.
That deal — which was negotiated by Frank Bauer and Kenny Chapman of Sun West Sports — sent Adams to Las Vegas in exchange for the Raiders' 2022 draft picks in both the first and second round. The 29-year-old Adams then signed a five-year, $140 million contract that would likely only last three years and pay him $67.5 million; the final two years of the deal carry cap hits over $40 million.
In an interview on "The Joe Rose Show with Zach Krantz" that was broadcast on WQAM in Miami on Thursday morning, Rosenhaus said that in the wake of the Adams deal, he told Kansas City general manager Brett Veach that the new Adams deal "should be the market for Tyreek."
“If it wasn’t,” said Rosenhaus, “then the right thing to do would be for everyone to benefit, which would be for the team to have an unprecedented trade — and for Tyreek to go to a team that would be willing to make him the highest-paid receiver.”
Rosenhaus described this talk with Veach as "very positive." But in the days that followed, it wasn't the only conversation he would have about the possibility of a Hill trade. According to a story by Mike Florio published by NBC Sports' "Pro Football Talk" on Thursday, Rosenhaus contacted every single NFL team about the possibility of trading for the six-time Powl Bowl wide receiver.
The process began immediately after the trade that sent receiver Davante Adams from the Packers to the Raiders. Hill wanted, at that point, an Adams-type deal or a trade. The Chiefs were cooperative, and it never got acrimonious between player and team.
Ultimately, roughly a dozen teams engaged Rosenhaus regarding a possible trade for Hill. Some teams did their homework on Hill. At least one team feared Hill had become a “diva.”
And somewhat amazingly, the possibility of a Hill trade remained secret.
As one team source explained it, agent Drew Rosenhaus asked that the information be handled discreetly, and that team coaches and executives “respect” him. As a more pragmatic matter, all teams have to deal with him, since he represents so many players. Still, with every team knowing about it, it would have been very easy for one of them to blab.
This information puts the Chiefs' actions since last Thursday in a somewhat different light. On Friday, the team signed former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year, $10.8 million contract that included almost $8 million in incentives. This raises the possibility that the Chiefs informed Smith-Schuster that there was a significant chance he would not be competing with Hill for targets — which might have made it easier to close the deal.
Then on Tuesday, the Chiefs made an unexpected move: clearing $9.6 million of cap space with a salary-to-signing-bonus conversion on the contract of left guard Joe Thuney. It was surprising because the pending extension of Hill's contract — which could have created up to $13 million in cap space — was the salary-cap move that most observers expected to come next.
“It is not done yet, but certainly, this is something that could happen in the coming days,” said Rapaport during an NFL Network broadcast. “Again, I would not describe it as ‘close’ or ‘closing in,’ but the two sides have done significant work on this deal. And when this happens — and it does seem like it is going to happen at some point — then the Chiefs will have cap room.”
On Thursday, Rosenhaus (mostly) confirmed Rapoport's reporting, saying that he and the Chiefs had been in negotiations about Hill's extension since "the end of the season."
“We had actually worked out a restructure that the Chiefs had wanted a week before, and it really looked like we were going to work toward a contract extension,” said the agent. “There was even a report that we were close to a deal — that was inaccurate — but we were working on it.”
But then, said Rosenhaus, the Adams deal "flipped everything upside down."
“The Chiefs, I think, they had the foresight to see that Tyreek was in the last year of his contract — and we weren’t going to take a deal that wasn’t better than Adams,” he explained. “So they recognized this would probably be their last year with Tyreek, and this was their opportunity to potentially rebuild at that position.”
Putting all of this together, it now seems clear that by late Monday or early Tuesday, the Chiefs were certain that Hill would be traded — meaning that they could no longer depend upon the savings from Hill's contract extension to keep them under the cap when they officially submitted their signings of Derrick Nnadi, Chad Henne, Elijah Lee, Geron Christian, Corey Coleman and Luq Barcoo to the league. While it's true that the $18.5 million in cap space that the Hill trade would have created would also have been enough, the Chiefs couldn't be sure how long it would take for the trade to become final. So Veach raided Thuney's contract for the money he needed.
Then by Wednesday morning, it was down to just two teams in the running to obtain Hill: the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. The Chiefs and Rosenhaus decided it was time to leak the news that a trade was in the offing — and a transaction that had been almost a week in the making appeared to take place over just a couple of hours.