How Tyreek Hill Trade To Dolphins Spotlights Patriots’ Biggest Problem

Hill now plays in the AFC East


March 23

Hope that shoulder’s healed up, Jonathan Jones. You’re going to have your hands full this season.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off a stunning blockbuster Wednesday, reportedly trading a bundle of draft picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Miami sent a total of five picks to Kansas City, including the 29th overall selection in this year’s draft, then signed Hill to an enormous four-year, $120 million contract that includes $72.2 million guaranteed, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

The New York Jets also reportedly made an offer for Hill but lost out to their AFC East rival.

Will Hill be the same elite, defense-shattering wideout when he’s catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa rather than Patrick Mahomes? That remains to be seen. But his arrival in Miami adds arguably the NFL’s fastest player to an offense that already featured 2021 rookie standout Jaylen Waddle.

Hill ran the 40-yard dash in 4.29 seconds. Waddle, who caught 104 passes in his first pro season, ran a 4.37. Covering both of those players simultaneously is going to cause problems for opposing defenses — especially ones with lackluster cornerback groups. Miami also has DeVante Parker, Cedrick Wilson and tight end Mike Gesicki to round out its passing attack, and it bolstered Tagovailoa’s protection Tuesday by signing the top free agent tackle, Terron Armstead.

The New England Patriots, who have watched a number of their AFC opponents make significant roster improvements this offseason, now will face Hill twice each season. And it’s difficult to envision their secondary surviving those matchups in its current state.

Already light on cornerback depth this past season, the Patriots lost Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency and thus far have replaced him with only Terrance Mitchell, a soon-to-be 30-year-old journeyman who has played for five teams over the last seven seasons and was one of Pro Football Focus’s lowest-graded corners in 2021.

New England’s current depth chart at the position isn’t pretty:

Jalen Mills
Jonathan Jones
Terrance Mitchell
Myles Bryant
Joejuan Williams
Shaun Wade
Justin Bethel

Jones, who reportedly is recovering well from season-ending shoulder surgery, has played a starring role in the Patriots’ efforts to defend Hill over the years, and the longtime slot corner likely will lead that charge again this season, assuming good health.

Overall, though, there’s a distinct lack of speed in this position group. Mills, Mitchell, Bryant and Williams all ran in the 4.6s. Wade ran a 4.43 at his pro day, but he lacks experience after hardly playing at all as a rookie. Bethel is an emergency-only option outside of special teams. Who covers Waddle? Who knows.

And this unit would have a difficult time holding up even against teams that didn’t feature multiple burners. Mills and Jones are the only Patriots cornerbacks who currently project as roster locks, with Mitchell’s contract structured in a way that would let New England easily cut him if he’s not up to snuff in training camp.

More additions are sorely needed, either through what’s left of free agency or in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Patriots should seriously consider using their first-round pick (No. 21 overall) to address what now, with Trent Brown back to shore up their offensive line, stands out as their most glaring roster hole.

UPDATE (3:45 p.m. ET): The Patriots made a move to address their cornerback need, and an eye-popping one at that. Malcolm Butler is back on a two-year contract.

The Patriots’ 2022 schedule features two games against Hill and the Dolphins; two more against the two-time defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills, who didn’t punt in either of the teams’ last two matchups this past season; and single meetings with Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers, Deshaun Watson’s Cleveland Browns, Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals, Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens, Kyler Murray’s Arizona Cardinals, Matt Ryan’s Indianapolis Colts and a Derek Carr- and Josh McDaniels-led Las Vegas Raiders team that just traded for Davante Adams.

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