Davante Adams pushed his way out of Green Bay, leaving four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and relocating to Las Vegas, where close friend and former Fresno State teammate Derek Carr is transitioning to new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Tyreek Hill bolted Kansas City — and the transcendent talent of Mahomes — and took his talents to South Florida, where new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is installing a cutting-edge scheme and trying to turn Tua Tagovailoa into top-flight NFL passer.
Who’s the biggest loser in this equation?
On paper … everyone.
Rodgers loses his most prolific and trusted target. Mahomes will no longer have the luxury of throwing to the sport’s most lethal deep threat. And Adams and Hill — each of whom got paid in the wake of high-profile trades — will be expected to be even more prolific than before, despite playing for teams that have been less successful, and with quarterbacks who haven’t combined to win three of the past four MVPs.
Not that any of the people in question are shying away from the challenge, or suppressing their swag. In July Adams talked about going from “Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer” — a prematurely hyperbolic assessment of Carr’s career to this point. He later clarified the remark, and absorbed some good-natured ribbing from Rodgers, who told reporters that “going from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer” (Adams to Allen Lazard, the Packers’ nominal No. 1 receiver heading into the season) would be a similar challenge.
Hill went further into the realm of fantasy, declaring in June that Tagovailoa is more accurate than Mahomes. Later in the summer, Hill anointed Tagovailoa as the most accurate thrower in the league, period, as though the receiver was trying to speak it into existence.
One might be tempted to say that Hill and Adams are tripping, but it’s probably not a term that Rodgers should throw around cavalierly, having recently told NBC’s Peter King about his offseason experiences with ayahuasca and its impact on his mental state. With his consciousness heightened, Rodgers can now turn his attention to the biggest challenge of training camp: Creating chemistry with his receivers, who’ll collectively try to compensate for Adams’ absence.
It won’t be easy. I’ve loved Lazard’s grit and scrappiness since he first willed his way onto the field, but he’s as far from the prototype of a No. 1 receiver as avocado toast is from being Green Bay’s most popular breakfast food. Veteran Randall Cobb is on the downward slope of his career. That leaves free-agent signee Sammy Watkins, largely untested second-year player Amari Rodgers and rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson as potential difference-makers — provided they can find a way to connect with their quarterback.
The fact that Rodgers stayed away during most of the team’s offseason program didn’t make that quest any easier. That said, fourth-rounder Doubs, especially, is an intriguing talent who’ll be counted on to give the Packers some juice.
It will be fun to watch — but on crucial third downs, when Rodgers needs a completion, I predict that he’s going to miss Adams a whole lot. All of this will be a challenge for first-year offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich, who takes over for rookie Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, with whom Rodgers had an extremely close relationship.
The Chiefs — who have an elite pass-catcher in tight end Travis Kelce, and who signed the Packers’ top deep threat, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as a free agent — are probably better equipped to handle Hill’s departure. The comfort zone that Mahomes has with head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and vice-versa, should allow this terrific trio to come up with creative ways to expose defenses. And yet, indisputably, they’re going to miss Hill, who stretches and shatters opposing secondaries like no one else.
One other quick thought: Another high-profile trade involving an elite receiver over the offseason — A.J. Brown going from the Titans to the Eagles — hasn’t trended well for Tennessee so far. The first-round receiver the Titans drafted to replace Brown, Treylon Burks, didn’t make it through his first minicamp practice amid struggles with asthma and conditioning, and earlier this month head coach Mike Vrabel called him out for being inconsistent. Meanwhile Brown, who plays angry as it is, has been taking shots at his former team and seems poised to prove a point, emphatically and repeatedly.