PALM BEACH, Fla. — Before executing the Tyreek Hill blockbuster, Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier had a reputation as a “build through the draft” type of NFL executive.
He made a staggering 11 top-100 picks in the last two years — and that’s even after moving up in the first round to take Jaylen Waddle in 2021. But it’s a new year with a new coach and a seemingly new approach.
“Eff them picks,” Hill said gleefully at his introductory news conference last week after the Dolphins surrendered five draft selections for his services — including their first- and second-rounders in 2022.
Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier is going for it in 2022
What happened? This isn’t some panic move. Grier not only survived the latest organizational shakeup but helped pick Brian Flores’ replacement. He has the full support of owner Stephen Ross.
Rather, a confluence of a rare opportunity, a much-improved roster, and a relatively thin NFL Draft helped convince Grier to swing big in a way he hasn’t since taking over roster control in 2019.
“We had been building here for a while since we took over, acquiring picks and cleaning up the salary cap and stuff,” Grier said during a few free minutes at the NFL annual meeting. “It was the opportunity to add a good player, a very dynamic player, one that we feel is one of the best players in the league. When those opportunities come, we just felt like we can’t pass on it.
“We spent the last three years building and getting the roster to the point where we can start competing, and at the end of the day, being able to add a player of his caliber, we felt like he was too good to pass on,” Grier added. “To do deals like that, you always need good support from ownership. Steve [Ross], Tom [Garfinkel], and Brandon [Shore] worked with the agent as well to finish up the deal.”
Dolphins make Tyreek Hill highest-paid WR in NFL history
That deal included a record $72.2 million in guarantees. It came together after five days of talks with both the Kansas City Chiefs and Hill’s agent Drew Rosenhaus.
Grier was in Columbus, Ohio, for the Ohio State Pro Day, getting an up-close look at potential first-round wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave when the deal finally went through.
“I told Tyreek he was wasting my time here,” Grier said. “… I go, he owes Mr. Ross some more money to pay for my flight and that hotel room overnight.”
The Dolphins were comfortable with the price tag because they (rightly) see him as a rare talent who — along with Waddle and Cedrick Wilson Jr. — could give Miami the NFL’s best yards-after-catch wide receiver group in football.
Hill is far better than anyone the Dolphins could draft in 2022
No knock on Olave and Wilson, but the Dolphins weren’t going to get anything close to a player of Hill’s caliber with their first-round pick (29th overall).
And the depth (or lack thereof) of this year’s draft class has been a big factor in the unprecedented picks-for-players trades throughout the NFL recently.
One high-level executive for an NFL team told PFN Monday that the number of draft prospects with first-round grades is less than the usual 16 to 20. Teams with foresight have traded their first-rounders for players they know can help them immediately.
“I think it’s kind of what we talked about in Indy [at the NFL Scouting Combine],” Grier said. “It was not a rebuild. This was finding the right players, right pieces, right time. And I think we’ve acquired a lot of young talent coming in, but if you find good, veteran players who are not only good players but leaders as well.
“People talked about Tyreek’s leadership there in Kansas City. The Saints, you hear Mickey Loomis say [Terron Armstead is] one of the best human beings you’ll ever be around. So I think for our roster — if we’re going to add however many players, those top players in their positions in the league, especially if they’re great leaders and veterans — it’s a great opportunity for us, so we just felt it was the right time to really be aggressive.”