It’s a great time to be an NFL-wide receiver — and it just gets better

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The move — which took away arguably the best receiver in the NFL from arguably the best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers — caused the league to go into overdrive, especially the broad receiver market.

With Adams — who signed a $141.25 million five-year contract with the Raiders after joining, making him the most expensive receiver at the time — the first major domino to fall into free agency, teams began to reevaluate their own position group, which led to the fabric of the competition being shaken with big trades and even bigger contracts.

In addition, the trend of teams selecting exciting receivers early in the draft continued, with seven being drafted among the first 34 picks.

The historic success of Ja’Marr Chase as a rookie last year continued the streak of freshman wide receivers who produced from day one, when they may have struggled before.

So why have teams suddenly decided that the position group is so important, and one in which to invest huge assets?

According to Grant Caraway, founder of First Down Training, a stylistic change in the way the game is played, brought forward by current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, has contributed to a change in the way teams are played across the board. appreciate recipients.

“The offenses have changed. Everyone goes to that air strike and throws the ball 40, 50 times a game,” he said. CNN Sports. “So they need athletes to be successful because like in an air strike system you’re trying to expand the field.

“You’ve got four or five receivers on the field all the time, so you’re going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups. That’s exactly how it goes because you’re trying to stretch the field, so if you’ve got guys who who can win matchups and you have those guys who can create separation…

“And so I think that’s why you’re seeing such a push these days, because everybody’s trying to find that guy who, for the best possible price, doesn’t have to drop $100 million and get Davante Adams, they can drafting a man who walks good routes and gets divorced. And that’s why I think the offenses evolve and I think that’s what people are constantly looking for: those receivers who can win and win in one-on-one matches.”

Cash

Money, money, and more money — it’s been the off-season to spend money on those whose job it is to catch the ball. Outside of Adams’ monster deal, top tier receivers have been on the move and getting paid as they go.

After Adams, the biggest and arguably most shocking move was Tyreek Hill swapping Kansas City for Miami’s South Beach, traded from the Chiefs to the Dolphins before signing a massive four-year extension worth $120 million at $72.2 million guaranteed – the new highest paid contract for everyone in the job group.

In the following weeks, DeVante Parker left the Dolphins to go to the Patriots, Marquise Brown was traded from the Baltimore Ravens to the Arizona Cardinals, and the Tennessee Titans traded AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. The latter agreed to a four-year extension worth $100 million with a $57 million guaranteed shortly after.

Not only that, but other recipients were strapped with their own monster deals. After a Super Bowl-winning season in which he took the receiving triple crown — league leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns — Cooper Kupp signed a three-year extension worth up to $80 million with the Rams.

Stefon Diggs agreed to a four-year $96 million contract extension with the Buffalo Bills, Terry McLaurin signed a three-year extension worth up to $70 million with the Washington Commanders, and DJ Moore signed a three-year extension to worth $61.9 million with the Carolina Panthers.

Stefon Diggs makes a catch during Bills' training camp.

Caraway says the string of high-paying contracts this summer is partly due to agents sensing a change in the environment.

“If they want that solid receiver, they have to pay for it,” he said.

“And I think the guys who negotiate the contracts, the agent and all that stuff probably know that and they probably come to the organization with that kind of, ‘Okay, listen, when you see this caliber of a player on the team, you’ve seen what he’s been able to do for other teams’ — like Davante Adams in Green Bay.

“That was their man. That’s like the best receiver in the league, everything he does looks so easy, it almost looks like he’s head and shoulders above the other receivers in the team. So when we go into that contract negotiation , they say, ‘Hey, listen, if you want this type of player on your team, what he can do for your team, you have to pay the guy.'”

And Drew Lieberman, founder of the Sideline Hustle and personal wide receiver coach to numerous NFL players, believes NFL players have been given an “NBA mentality” — where players are happier to move teams more often in search of a better fit. ‘ psyche.

“In the old days, guys in the NFL tried to stay on one team for as long as possible,” he told CNN Sport. “And there are some guys who decided the number 1 thing they wanted to do was get paid as much as possible, which is their right.”

Cooper Kupp hits Eli Apple of the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

From day one

As Chase seared past seven Chiefs defenders for a remarkable 72-yard touchdown in Week 17 to take the Bengals’ top spot in the AFC North, it was easy to forget that this was his first season in the league.

Chase was only 21 years old at the time and was enjoying a historic rookie season in the NFL. In the afternoon with three touchdowns, 266 receiving yards against the Chiefs, he not only set an NFL record for most receiving yards in a game by a rookie, but also broke the record for receiving yards in a season by a rookie. rookie .

That record was set just a year earlier by Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson.

While freshman receivers have often struggled to produce at the highest level from day one, the trend of rookies coming in as the No. 1 option is now certainly a real thing – from Chase and Jefferson to DK Metcalf and DeVonta Smith.

So how come rookie wide receivers are so much more adept at entering the league and producing from day one? Both Caraway and Lieberman noted that the rise of multisport athletes has helped recipients learn attributes that set them apart.

Chase makes a one-handed reception as Rams defends cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the first quarter of Super Bowl LVI.

Phoebe Schechter, former coach of the Buffalo Bills, said some of the league’s biggest stars have benefited from playing contactless football.

“And that’s essentially just quarterback, receiver, and defensive back play. And for me, that almost made the biggest difference,” she said. the Around the NFL podcast. “You look at your (Patrick) Mahomes, your (Justin) Herberts, those guys who grew up seven-a-seven.

“I mean, imagine passing gally every week since you were 10 years old. Absolutely, you’re going to learn how to read and respond to a defense and no doubt that doesn’t take away from the incredible athleticism that we seem to be growing in this world.”

The advent of the internet and social media has also helped narrow the “information gap” between the top of the game and the rising stars, Lieberman explains.

“With the internet alone… there are a lot of great accounts online and on social media that are learning the game,” he said. “I think when I started coaching 10 years ago, the biggest thing that struck me was that there was just a huge information gap between how we learn the game and how we coach the game at the highest level versus what you go through in high school. … and younger.

“It’s a totally different game from the way it’s talked about, the detail where you plan the game and attack things and all that. The preparation and the amount of detail and in the game plans and the kind of nuances and how the game works, it’s never really explained to you at those lower levels, I think a lot of that information is more widely available.

“I know guys who watch YouTube videos of their favorite players over and over. That wasn’t necessarily available 10 years ago as it is now where there are so many videos and so much footage for guys to study.”

A busy low season could spell the end of something, with players perhaps finding a long-term home and the paychecks they think they deserve.

So why does it feel like the beginning?



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