With the departures of Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson this offseason, there’s only one tenured player left in the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver room in 2022: Mecole Hardman.
Hardman was selected with the 56th overall pick in the second round in 2019. That means his rookie contract is set to expire in 2023, which could potentially put him at the table with the Chiefs in 2022 to discuss a contract extension.
But Kansas City general manager Brett Veach doesn’t think Hardman and his representation are running to the table to start those conversations. That wouldn’t be in their best interest.
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“It’s a good question,” Veach said to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on May 9 when asked about the timing of a Hardman extension. “I think one of the things that makes it more difficult is just where this receiver market went. On one hand, we can sit there and come up with something that makes sense for us and him. But on the other hand, when you come off of free agency period with these numbers were so high and there’s also the mindset or thought process of the cap will only get bigger now.
“I think it’ll probably tend to go in the direction where the agents and the players want to wait and if last year’s any indication of where this thing’s going to go, at some point it’ll kind of flatline out and things will become more balanced in regards to getting stuff done ahead of time. We’ll certainly have those type of conversations, but I think that if this offseason tipped its hand it’s more in the lines of the agent and the player just saying, ‘Well, might as well just wait.’ A lot of players benefitted from waiting and I think until that flatlines and settles down, I think there’ll be more of a desire for probably the agents more so to wait and play it out.”
Hardman’s Career Highlighted by 2021 Efforts
Stuck behind Hill and Travis Kelce in the pecking order, Hardman made the Pro Bowl his rookie season as a punt returner, averaging 9.3 yards per punt return and 26.1 yards per kick return in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference. That same season he caught 26 passes on 41 targets for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Hardman’s second year in the NFL didn’t provide a big jump in improvement, as he caught 41 passes 62 targets for 560 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, the 2021 season is where Hardman took a big step forward in terms of his development.
In 2021, Hardman caught a career-high 59 passes on 83 targets for 693 yards and 2 touchdowns. In a season in which Kansas City’s offense struggled to consistently move the ball, Hardman became a popular target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, especially underneath.
The trust Hardman was developing with Mahomes during his first two seasons in the NFL grew stronger in his third season, which is evident in his production on the field. It’s important that the chemistry between the two continues to take a step forward, as it’s needed if Hardman wants to earn a new contract in 2023, whether it be from Kansas City or another NFL team.
Twitter Reacts to Potential Hardman Extension
Twitter users weighed in on if the Chiefs should try to extend Hardman before the 2022 season.
“Tough call, if they extend him now they may get a discount. If he has the season he could have with a bigger role in the offense then he’s gonna cost a fortune, but he needs to show he can thrive now that Hill is gone,” one Twitter user wrote.
“As with anything, it depends on what that contract looks like. If it’s anywhere near what was going on this FA period, then absolutely not. If it’s WR3/4 money then I’m fine with it only because we only have Moore/MVS under contract for 23 right now,” another user wrote.
“Extend him for cheap now because he will ball out this year. His role will be elevated since Tyreek is gone. He’s already out performed Sammy stat wise in the same amount of time. Like Terez says ‘the contract year is undefeated,'” another user wrote.