Training camp has begun, and we’re bombarded with rookie headlines, ugly quarterback competitions that won’t matter, Lamar Jackson contract talk, and viral Moss’d videos. All of those won’t truly factor into this season the way Christian Kirk and the Jaguars will. On March 14th the NFL changed when the Jaguars signed Kirk to a four-year $72M deal. We all collectively laughed at the contract. For starters, it was the Jags being themselves, spending far and above the player’s value that’s had moderate production. Christian Kirk, who ranked 26th in receptions, 42nd in TDs, 32nd in yards per game, and under 1,000 yards, was now one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. This transaction had a ripple effect that changed the landscape and essentially eliminated teams from Super Bowl contention.
The first domino to fall was the Davante Adams trade and contract. In my eyes, his exit from the Packers ended their Super Bowl aspirations, and they only replaced the All-Pro with young talent through the draft. It also immediately puts the Raiders on the clock with first-year head coach Josh McDaniels. His $140M deal had the Packers’ hands tied as they paused on any free agent action knowing how much of the cap this would command. It also severely shrinks the window for the Raiders as currently constructed. For cap purposes alone, this is roughly a two-year window for the team.
Then came the Tyreek Hill trade to Miami with a $130M guaranteed contract. The Chiefs couldn’t match the number the Dolphins were willing to pay, and the move effectively reset the entire Chiefs offense. While this doesn’t crush their Super Bowl contention, when looking at their division and losing the most explosive player in football, it decreases their odds. On the opposition, Tua Tagovailoa has a year to prove his worth. Hill and Adams had production to warrant their contract numbers, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t factor in the “if he’s getting that much, then I know I’m worth about double that.”
Two slightly insignificant moves within the ripple were the new deals for Stefan Diggs and the triple crown winner Cooper Kupp to bump them above Kirk’s salary.
The NFL Draft is easily overlooked when examining the Christian Kirk butterfly effect. It started with the Falcons’ selection of Drake London at 8th overall. Yes, the absence of Calvin Ridley due to a yearlong suspension left a glaring need, but the ballooning of wide receiver contracts factors in the need for the 5th year option more than ever. The idea makes sense for the Falcons, but when you look at a team that was dead last in sacks in 2021 and 23rd out of 32 in 2020, you’d think this would be a priority, right? In the grand scheme of things, you could argue that the Jaguars not only altered the draft strategy of the Falcons and cost Jermaine Johnson, who would’ve been the edge rusher picked by the Falcons, roughly $7M.
On the other side of the draft were the receivers that were traded. DeAndre Hopkins missing the first half of the season for a PED suspension forced the Cardinals to make a move. But what if Christian Kirk received his perceived value and was re-signed by the team? Maybe they don’t trade for Hollywood Brown. On the other side of the coin, the Ravens were a season away from the Hollywood Brown bill coming due. Brown, who ranked one slot above Kirk in yards and TDs, it’s safe to assume he’d ask for a similar contract. The result is the team trading their franchise QB’s best friend (they seem to be homies on IG) and leading receiver on draft night.
The last piece to the draft night puzzle was the AJ Brown trade. The Titans’ window is really within the next two seasons, and their entire offense was centered around two playmakers – AJ Brown and Derrick Henry. The reaction by head coach Mike Vrable to the deal becoming official on draft night was the summary of the Titan fan base. It was said from the start of the offseason that they wouldn’t move Brown, but $25M a year seemed to be a bit too rich in the eyes of Titans GM Jon Robinson. Again, closing the door on yet another team’s Super Bowl aspirations.
The conclusion of the run on receiver contracts has finally concluded with the signings of DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel. Everyone that follows NFL is aware that the next player to be paid at any position is normally highest, but we’ve never seen anything like this within one position group in a single offseason. The contracts led to unprecedented team volatility making this one of the most entertaining offseasons we’ve ever seen in sports. The most enjoyable part about it is this all started with the acquisition of a player that won’t be taken above the 7th round in fantasy and just jumped above 80 overall on Madden by a team that will pick in the top 10.