With plenty of young receivers available every year, the best veterans are nevertheless getting significant deals

Miami Dolphins Press Conference
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The proliferation of seven-on-seven tournaments from high school through college has resulted in the emergence of plenty of very good quarterbacks. It also has accelerated the development of plenty of receivers, given that someone is catching all the passes that are being thrown.

As a result, the receiver position is in some ways becoming a lot like the running back position. With an increasing supply of great young players, veterans at the position could quickly find themselves devalued. The best veterans may have a harder time getting paid.

Against that backdrop, the money given to the best receivers has mushroomed in the past month, with players like Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill (pictured), and Stefon Diggs getting contracts worth roughly $25 million per year. Others, like 2019 second-rounders DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel (and 2019 third-rounder Terry McLaurin), are moving in that direction — with $30 million annually not very far away.

(By the way, don’t get mad at the players for wanting or getting that money. The salary cap will be rocketing toward $300 million in the coming years. And for every dollar the players get, the owners keep one. Because there’s no transparency as to how much money the owners make — other than the gold-played deck chairs on their titanic superyachts — the players, whose contracts are available in chapter-and-verse detail, are the ones who end up being resented. It’s also easier for fans to resent players when embellished and/or fabricated numbers regarding their contracts are circulated by reporters who know they’re being lied to by agents who want to parlay news of big contracts into more clients. For example, ESPN continues to push the lie that the Diggs extension is worth $104 million over four years, when the truth is $8 million lower.)

The fact that the Packers and Chiefs traded Adams and Hill, respectively, shows that for some teams it makes sense to take the draft picks and to start over, with capable young receivers who are entering the draft each and every year. (Sure, once Adams had it in his head that he wanted to go to the Raiders, the Packers supposedly were willing to pay him. But why didn’t the Packer get there before he made it clear he wanted out?)

This dynamic of high-end receivers being traded could just be starting. Whenever a player like that emerges for a team that believes it can scout and select cheap, entry-level pass-catchers to replace those who have gotten more and more expensive, why not start over? That’s what plenty of teams have been doing at running back. The only difference at the receiver position is that other teams are willing to surrender multiple picks and pay market-level cash to the best receivers in the league. Other teams aren’t doing that for the best running backs.

Former NFL G.M. Scot McCloughan thinks that teams shouldn’t give huge money to receivers. He made his case to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com in an item regarding the chronic struggles of the Patriots to draft and develop receivers whom anyone would want to give a second contract.

“When you start throwing that money around, if it’s a quarterback, I get it,” McCloughan told Reiss. “If it’s a pass rusher, I get it. Guys that are impacting games all the time. With a receiver — they’re important don’t get me wrong, but a good defensive coordinator can take them out of the game plan. . . . So now you’re lucky if he touches the ball 6-8 times a game . . . it’s just who’s going to impact the game the most.”

I won’t argue with a guy who has a strong track record of drafting and developing players. But doesn’t the mere presence of a great receiver affect a defense on every single play? The defense has to constantly account for him. The fact that the coordinator has to try to take him out of the game plan means that fewer players will be available to defend the other 10 men on the offense.

Clearly, the Dolphins, Raiders, and Bills disagree with McCloughan. The Packers and Chiefs, on the other hand, seem to be erring on the side of draft and develop.

It’s a trend that requires close monitoring, one contract or trade at a time, in the coming years. Especially as more great young receivers keep popping up — and as great veteran receivers keep angling for the paydays that they deserve.

30 responses to “With plenty of young receivers available every year, the best veterans are nevertheless getting significant deals

  1. Once the GMs wise up they will stop giving out these deals. They won’t produce what they are being paid and WRs will be looked at much like RBs, interchangable pieces that is better to have youth than experience.

  2. He’s spot on. And GB and KC were smart to trade guys pushing 30 for draft picks. In a few years, provided they draft well, I believe it’ll be clear it was the right move. Put a stud or even a good DT and OL on the Chiefs and two of an edge rusher, OL, DL or replacement WR on the Packers and both teams will be better off.

    WRs are a dime a dozen with college football cranking them out. There are many who will disagree, so to each his own.

  3. $25m for a QB and $25m for a receiver with a $208m salary cap is a lot to dedicate to 2 positions. After the loss to Tampa in the Superbowl, I think KC decided they needed to invest in a strong offensive line at the expense of Tyreek.

  4. The Packers and Chiefs may be “erring” on the side of draft and develop for WRs, (though they both could still sign a veteran in coming weeks). But I’d say they have better chances to be in the SB than the Dolphins or Raiders.

  5. It takes scouting and coaching skill to draft and develop the right receiver. That’s not so easy. Why some folks will buy a fixer-upper and take on the challenge, other need move-in ready or, in the case of the top receivers changing teams for ther big big buck$$$, turn-key.

  6. After players inked a massive contract, their production usually drops because they want to avoid injuries to sustain the wealth into future, although there is guarantee money.

  7. Packers and Chiefs did the smart move. Bills had to sign Diggs because they gave up a lot to get him.

  8. As a Bengals fan I look at it this way. Jamar Chase is already one of the best in the game, but is he better than prime AJ Green? Debatable at least. Prime AJ Green couldn’t get that team over the top. A stud receiver is only valuable on the right team, so if you’re gonna pay one he better be the final piece. I’m a bit surprised that someone like Miami didn’t see more value in trying to get another player or two like Waddle with those picks and just having a team full of unguardable wide outs on rookie deals.

  9. The trading of star players for picks is the opposite of the Rams model, and it worked for them. The draft picks could flame out and you get nothing but cap space for trading Adams and Hill. I can see it for KC as they have Mahomes for a long time. But the Pack needed Adams to pair with Rodgers for next 2 years.

  10. The Rams do not win SB56 without Cooper Kupp. Also the DC with the Bengals could not find a scheme to stop Kupp.

  11. Not sure I agree – great WRs still impact games w/o HOF QBs: Larry Fitzgerald, D Hopkins, Randy Moss, etc.

  12. But why didn’t the Packer get there before he made it clear he wanted out?)
    Once a player gets fed up with being forced to live in Green Bay there is no going back. The Packers were stuck and have to roll the dice in the draft

  13. djr13130 says:
    April 10, 2022 at 2:11 pm
    The Rams do not win SB56 without Cooper Kupp. Also the DC with the Bengals could not find a scheme to stop Kupp.

    51Rate This


    Good thing Goodell got involved at the end, huh? More money to be made in LA than Cincy. It’s that simple.

    It wasn’t a penalty.

  14. “Once a player gets fed up with being forced to live in Green Bay there is no going back.”

    I’m not aware of any contract language forcing a player to live in the city he plays for. I’m pretty sure not every Viking player lives in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

  15. Chiefs had no choice but to trade Hill. If they had given him top end money, then what does Kelce want? Tyrann Mathieu was looking for top end money and now he is regretting his decision. Will the Chiefs most likely struggle without Hill and Mathieu, sure, but GM Veach now has draft picks to get more players on rookie contracts to hopefully keep moving towards the SB.

  16. There’s not much comparison between WR’s that are truly great and a rookie. This is a position that needs some level of NFL experience + outstanding skill to hit that upper tier. Speed, quickness, hands, routes…you can’t just draft on that and expect to hit every time.

    JaMarr Chase is a great example of hitting gold on a rookie, but for every Chase is 31 Amari Rodgers’.

    Sure, you can’t pay $25m, $30m and field a QB at the same price under the current cap while building a contending team, but it’s a harsh reality. You have to have WR playmakers just like you need a star QB and often that takes NFL experience.

  17. The Packers have a history of drafting WR’s and developing them. They will do so again.

  18. purpleguy says:
    April 10, 2022 at 2:14 pm
    Not sure I agree – great WRs still impact games w/o HOF QBs: Larry Fitzgerald, D Hopkins, Randy Moss, etc.

    All those players are ringless and were irrelevant when they didnt have a top 10 QB throwing them the ball. Even the great Randy Moss.

  19. Regarding having an elite WR, I agree with the statement “the defense has to constantly account for him”. It’s not just about catching “6-8 balls”. There’s so much more to that position than just catching balls.

    How often do you see an elite QB without an elite WR? IMO, WR is the 3rd most important position on the field.

    1. QB
    2. DE (or some sort of elite pass rusher)
    3. WR

    There’s just so many of them coming out of college now.

    Now, in saying that, you can get away without an elite WR if you have 3 great WRs on the team. But then you’re almost guaranteed a revolving door, with one of them leaving in free agency every year.

  20. These things go in cycles. It wasn’t that long ago that WRs were considered the “shiny hood ornament” of the offense–nice to have, but not nearly as important as other positions. You didn’t build around them, rather you went out and got them when all the other pieces were in place.

    Julio Jones altered that perception when the Falcons sold out to draft him and he took them to a Super Bowl, but now things seem to be swinging back the other way again.

  21. Very few teams are going to be paying a QB $40M and a WR $25M. In reality, teams with fledgling rookie QBs on cheap deals are going to look towards these expensive WRs to help their QB like in Miami, and similarly in Vegas where Carr is due just under $20M this year.
    This is why it doesn’t make sense for Seattle to trade Metcalf right now unless he wants out, they’ll need him to get the best out of Lock/Rookie QB.

  22. Imagine thinking the nfl is about making money. It’s not. It’s about bread (beer is bread in a can) and circus

  23. The Bengals don’t sniff the Super Bowl without Jamarr Chase, and the Rams don’t win it without Cooper Kupp.

  24. With the kind of money Rodgers is getting paid, he’d better lead the Packers to a SuperBowl and do it with whomever the receivers that are the field at the same time as he is happen to be. The Packers put all their eggs in Rodgers’ basket. Rodgers needs to get the job done, regardless of talent or experience among the receivers. If not, he’s gone.

  25. Charles Rogers…. Kevin White.. Reggie Williams…Matt Jones… Mike Williams (the lions one)… Justin Blackmon… David Tyrell… etc etc etc etc….. a #1 WR is NOT a dime a dozen… an average competent one has become more common though. It’s like saying RB’s are so easy to find in the draft now.. and ignore special talents like Adrian Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson

  26. Earlier someone mentioned Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss and Deondre Hopkins….2 for sure, maybe 3 HOF WR’s, they have two super bowl appearances and no rings among them, same for Terrell Owens. Top flight stud WR’s does not equal titles, yes, Jerry Rice and Cooper Kupp have them, but talent at the position is more coincidental to championships than “must have”. NEP won how many super bowls without a stud WR? Yet when they had Moss they lost. Green Bay drafted Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the 2nd round. Championships are about QB’s and defenses that create havoc. The WR is the new RB, interchangeable and you don’t overpay, stock up on younger cheaper wide receivers

  27. dirtnasty says:
    April 10, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    JaMarr Chase is a great example of hitting gold on a rookie, but for every Chase is 31 Amari Rodgers’.

    While you are right its hard for a rookie to come in and make a massive impact at the WR position, Rodgers still may be good, WRs do take more time to develop than RBs. All of GBs probowl WRs Cobb, Jennings, Nelson, Adams, All had rough starts to their careers especially when it came to drops. Heck even James Jones lead the league in TDs oen season after a rough start to his career.

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