The Dallas Cowboys are going to need reinforcements at wide receiver, and that could come in the form of a blazing-fast member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dallas’ offense ended up being the team’s weak point as they exited out of the 2022 season, losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round after scoring just 12 points. The team has moved on from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and more changes feel likely.
Accordingly, Sports Illustrated’s Harrison Reno addressed potential newcomers for the Cowboys, with Kansas City Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman as one of the options.
“In his previous three seasons as a Chief, Hardman has shown he possesses an elite trait, speed, something the Cowboys lack,” Reno wrote. “Signing Hardman would give them another weapon who can take the top off the defense with his legs or even contribute in the slot.”
While Hardman hasn’t exactly established himself as the “new” Tyreek Hill since the older wide receiver’s departure to the Miami Dolphins, there’s clear talent in the 24-year-old and his speed is something Dallas currently doesn’t have.
Hardman Finds First NFL Home with Chiefs
After impressing at Georgia, Kansas City drafted Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft and it’s fair to say that the former Bulldog could not have asked for a better rookie year.
PFR shows that the 5’10” receiver caught 26 passes for 538 receiving yards in the regular season, scoring six times in the process. Hardman was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and, more importantly, the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV.
Hardman ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL combine, and it immediately made him a danger for secondaries at the NFL level. After his breakout rookie season, he followed up with solid contributions for the following years, eclipsing 550 receiving yards in both seasons and adding another six touchdowns to his resume over that span.
2022 has been a bit more of a struggle, as Hardman wasn’t producing at the same pace as previous seasons and then suffered an abdominal injury in Week 9 that sidelined him until Week 18.
For the entirety of his time with the Chiefs, Hardman has had to share attention with names like Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. With the Cowboys, he’d be splitting with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, which makes him seem like a much more complementary weapon.
Could Cowboys Afford to Sign Hardman?
While Hardman’s speed may be sorely needed by Dallas, he definitely will not be the most affordable option. The Cowboys have plenty of maneuvers they can make to make cap space (looking at you, Dak Prescott,) but Hardman’s projected market value is fairly steep.
Spotrac‘s current estimate for the Chiefs WR’s next contract is a four-year, $44.1 million deal. They point to recent deals for Detriot Lions WR D.J. Chark and Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Russell Gage as the market setters, as both received deals worth $10 million this past year.
Hardman’s injury and lack of production this year has to be taken into account, but it’s difficult to predict if this season is representative of what Hardman will do in the future.
That being said, what is clear is that paying over $11 million a season to a player who has yet to put up 1000 receiving yards in a season is a gamble. For context, Dallas gave WR Michael Gallup a contract with an average yearly salary of $11.5 million, and the Cowboys have yet to see Gallup reach the heights of his first few years with the team.