The Indianapolis Colts just reportedly signed free agent receiver Isaiah McKenzie and re-signed Ashton Dulin this offseason. But in the modern NFL, teams can never have enough offensive weapons.
With that in mind, Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine called the Colts a top landing spot for free agent wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
“His best landing spot would be a place that will look to manufacture touches for him and utilize his speed,” wrote Ballentine.
“New Colts head coach Shane Steichen has shown he’s an offensive mind that can maximize his players’ abilities. The Colts lost Parris Campbell in free agency and don’t have much at receiver outside of Michael Pittman Jr. Hardman would give them a much different receiver who can be a part of the running game with jet sweeps, too.”
Hardman made second-team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl as a kicker returner during his rookie season in 2019. He has yet to fully take advantage of his skillset as a receiver, but his speed makes him an intriguing possible addition for the Colts.
How Hardman Potentially Fits With the Colts
The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. They had so much confidence in Hardman, the Chiefs moved up five spots to land him.
At the time, Kansas City’s aggressiveness to ensure getting Hardman seemed justified.
Although NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein labeled him a third or fourth round pick, he compared Hardman’s skillset to three-time All-Pro wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Hardman also performed well at the NFL combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds.
“Raw but explosive with burst to uncover underneath and a second gear to threaten over the top,” Zierlein wrote in 2019. “Hardman could develop into a lesser version of Tyreek Hill with his playmaking potential after the catch, on deep balls and as a returner.”
In four seasons with the Chiefs, Hardman posted 151 receptions for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Hardman figured to be a bigger part of the Chiefs offense because of the departure of Hill last year. But he suffered an abdomen injury in November, which sidelined him until the postseason.
Indianapolis’ Wide Receiver Depth
Signing Hardman doesn’t come without risk. In a perfect world, the Colts should add another receiver with more accomplishments than Hardman.
His best statistical season as a receiver came in 2021 when he posted 59 catches for 693 yards.
Spotrac estimated Hardman’s market value to be about $41.6 million on a four-year contract. However, Pro Football Focus provided a much lower value, projecting the former Chiefs wideout to receive just a one-year, $4 million deal.
The Colts can minimize the risk of taking on Hardman if they can sign him to a one-year contract.
Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce figure to be Indianapolis’ top two receivers in 2023. As Ballentine mentioned, Indianapolis lost Parris Campbell in free agency to the New York Giants.
Working mostly in the slot during 2022, Campbell experienced a breakout season with 63 catches and 623 receiving yards.
But the Colts did re-sign Dulin, who could replace Campbell. Indianapolis also signed McKenzie as another possible Campbell replacement. McKenzie had a career-high 42 receptions for 423 yards last year.
The Colts love using Dulin on special teams, but if the Colts also added Hardman, the two receivers could split special teams snaps and be more rested for offensive plays.
Or with Hardman on the roster, the Colts could allow Dulin to focus solely on special teams with McKenzie and Hardman filling the roles of the team’s No. 3 and 4 wideouts.
In addition to the Colts, Ballentine identified the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons as the best fits for Hardman in NFL free agency.