NFL GM 'Could See' WRs Becoming Valued Like RBs; Draft New as Rookie Contracts Expire

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 9, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 24: Tyreek Hill speaks with the media after being introduced by the Miami Dolphins at Baptist Health Training Complex on March 24, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

The time has never been better to be an elite wide receiver looking for a payday, but the honeymoon period may be ending.

NBC Sports' Peter King spoke to a general manager who believes the market may begin correcting itself:

"I could see the receiver position becoming like running backs. Get as much out of the receiver in his first contract and then, after four or five years, let him go and draft another one high. There are so many good receivers now, I'm not sure they're all going to get paid going forward."

Davante Adams (five years, $140 million) signed a record-setting deal with the Las Vegas Raiders before Tyreek Hill (four years, $120 million) surpassed him. A.J. Brown (four years, $100 million) and Stefon Diggs (four years, $96 million) were both paid handsomely this offseason as well.

That has led many to wonder whether there's a paradigm shift in how wideouts are viewed at the top end. Perhaps it could be like the quarterback position, where the best pass-catchers reset the market almost every year.

The GM's comments suggest differently.

Adams, Hill and Brown were all traded before they signed new contracts, and more teams could balk at retaining even elite receivers. That could lead to an accompanying devaluing of the position.

The comparison to how running backs have lost a lot of bargaining power could be slightly off base, though.

The fact that Christian McCaffrey, the NFL's highest-paid running back, is making slightly more than half of what Hill will earn, isn't simply down to supply and demand. It's also a reflection of how the running game has been de-emphasized.

Here are the leading rushers of the last five Super Bowl champions:

  • 2017: LeGarrette Blount (766 yards) 
  • 2018: Sony Michel (931 yards) 
  • 2019: Damien Williams (498 yards) 
  • 2020: Ronald Jones II (978 yards) 
  • 2021: Sony Michel (845 yards)

Having an elite ground game is beneficial but not a necessity to win a championship. Teams can't be that dismissive with their aerial attack.

There's no question the draft is fertile ground for wideouts. The 2019 draft alone has seen six different pass-catchers reach the Pro Bowl. But the hit rate isn't 100 percent. Maybe you wind up with Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson.

In addition, swinging and missing on a receiver with a high draft pick isn't the same as whiffing on a running back in the middle rounds because of the different premiums the positions command.

Looking forward, the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans will all be test cases for the GM's theory on receivers.