The 2022 offseason saw a flurry of high-level activity on the trade market with a number of Pro Bowlers changing teams. This was especially the case at the quarterback and wide receiver positions, with the latter featuring Amari Cooper going from the Cowboys to the Browns and Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs to the Dolphins.
But could it have gone another way? Hill, who at one point last season was on pace for 2,000 yards, was recently at a signing event. He was signing an autograph for a fan wearing a Browns jersey, and another member of the audience recorded a brief exchange. Hill told the fan of the Browns, “They should’ve paid me, bro. I tried to go to Cleveland”.
The Pro Bowl receiver was looking for a new contract that it was clear he would not be getting from Kansas City, and so was on the trade market. The Chiefs found a partner in the Miami Dolphins, the deal being made on March 23, a week into free agency, in exchange for first- and second-round picks, two fourth-round picks, and a sixth-round pick.
With the trade completed, the Dolphins signed Hill to a new four-year, $120 million extension, of which $72.2 million was guaranteed. That made him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history with an average of $30 million per season.
The Browns had already made their move a week earlier, however, in acquiring Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys. All they gave up was a fifth-round pick, getting back a sixth. Of course, they also inherited his contract, which only pays $20 million per season. He currently has two years left on his deal.
Hill recorded 119 receptions in his first season with the Dolphins for 1,710 yards and seven touchdowns, establishing a great rapport with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The numbers trailed off some subject to the availability of Tagovailoa due to a series of concussions.
Cooper also had a successful first season in his new home, establishing himself as the Browns’ clear number one receiver. He caught 78 passes for 1,160 yards with a career-high nine touchdowns. And remember, he played most of the season with a backup quarterback due to Deshaun Watson’s suspension.
Cleveland is still looking to bolster its wide receiver room this offseason, having recently acquired Elijah Moore via trade. They also return a couple of recent draft picks, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz, but the position seems likely to be a target in the draft—even without any picks until the third round.
It’s worth remembering that the Browns had already given up their first-round draft pick for the following three seasons in acquiring Watson from the Houston Texans. It’s possible that they wouldn’t even have had a package to offer that Kansas City would have been willing to accept minus the premium draft capital. But if they could have found a way, would it have been the right move instead of adding Cooper?