Do you remember the wide receiver carousel of the offseason? Do you remember when star wideouts were being moved like they were 30-year-old NBA players with a salary-matching contract (looking at you Trevor Ariza)? Do you remember when teams elected not to pay their best pass-catchers because they didn’t think they were worth the money?
Well, with the conclusion of Week 1, a clear message was sent to the NFL: Pay your star wide receivers. Among the many wideouts traded this offseason, there were four that included guys who got (or already had) contracts of $20 million or more annually: Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, AJ Brown, and Amari Cooper.
Adams, Hill, and Brown were seeking big contracts in the offseason, while Cooper had already locked his in. But they all found themselves in a similar situation — their team didn’t think they were worth the money. It’s only been one week, but these star wide receivers proved that they’re not easily replaceable (except for Hill but Patrick Mahomes could have made high school receivers look good on Sunday).
The first game of the post-Adams era in Green Bay did not go as planned. When they brought back Aaron Rodgers, they assumed all would be fine. They figured if they had the four-time MVP under center, it didn’t matter who he was throwing to.
Spoiler alert: It mattered.
On the first play of the Packers’ drive, second-rounder Christian Watson dropped what would have been a 75-yard touchdown that I’m sure many people on their couch think they could’ve caught. That turned out to be a perfect representation of how the rest of the game would go. Green Bay’s five receivers had a combined 12 catches for 120 yards and no touchdowns on 16 targets. Adams, in his Raiders debut, had 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets.
It was a similar story for the Cowboys when their offense put up a dud with a lack of weapons at Dak Prescott’s disposal. Without Cooper, and with Michael Gallup not yet back from his torn ACL, the Cowboys offense couldn’t move the ball. With CeeDee Lamb getting all the attention, it was up to everybody else to get open and make plays. And “everybody else” couldn’t do that.
The Cowboys receivers had a combined 11 catches for 125 yards — and with Prescott under center they had just seven catches for 89 yards. While Cooper didn’t exactly put on a show in the Browns’ run-first offense with Jacoby Brissett under center, you have to imagine the Cowboys would have loved to have him back to spread out their offense. Cooper had nearly 4,000 receiving yards over his last four years with Dallas.
Then there was Brown and Hill. While their previous teams didn’t exactly struggle without them (both of them at least tried to replace them with viable options), their new teams sure loved having them.
Brown looked every bit of a WR1 in the Eagles’ win over Detroit. Brown had 10 catches for 155 yards on 13 targets, and looked like one of the most unguardable players in the entire league. His dominance and threat in the passing game opened up the Eagles’ run game even more, allowing them to rush for 216 yards and four scores in the game.
As for Hill, he very quickly proved he wasn’t just a product of the Chiefs’ offense. He reeled in eight catches for 94 yards on 12 targets, and had a six-yard run that gave him a 100-yard debut. He was constantly getting open for his young quarterback, and made an incredible catch to save him from an interception.
Overall, it was a good day for wide receivers across the league, and an eye-opening day for some of the teams that let their stars go.
In an era of the NFL where wide receivers are already among the highest-paid positions in football, they may be getting ready to reset the market again.