KC does have the advantage of winning behind a relatively young group, but there are still key veterans to re-sign and three of those unrestricted free agents are at the wide receiver position this March. Those players are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Justin Watson.
Each has earned a pay raise in 2023, and it’s unlikely all three return with rising WRs like Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore and potentially Justyn Ross hungry for more playing time next season. Having said that, the most probable departure from this trio is Hardman.
The former second-round selection is coming off an injury-ridden campaign, but he could be due for a bump in salary despite that — considering he’s been playing out his rookie contract over the past four years. If the speedy playmaker does indeed walk in free agency, Sports Illustrated’s Harrison Reno likes him as a fit for the Dallas Cowboys.
Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman Named as Free Agent Fit for Cowboys
During his article with S.I., Reno explained why Hardman makes sense for “America’s Team,” listing him as the second best WR match behind superstar Odell Beckham Jr.
Reno reasoned: “The former University of Georgia product hasn’t lived up to expectations in Kansas City after the Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill in the offseason. But the reason for Hardman never really producing the numbers is injury.”
“In his previous three seasons as a Chief, Hardman has shown he possesses an elite trait, speed,” he continued, “something the Cowboys lack. Signing Hardman would give them another weapon who can take the top off the defense with his legs or even contribute in the slot.”
Dallas never really replaced Amari Cooper externally in 2022, promoting CeeDee Lamb into his WR1 role. They were also the main franchise linked to Beckham over the past few months — although a deal never materialized — so it makes sense that the Cowboys would be in the market for a new wideout this spring.
What Type of Contract Offer Might Mecole Hardman Get in Free Agency?
If you’re wondering how much it might cost for the Chiefs to retain Hardman, the answer is too much according to Spotrac.
The popular cap site’s market value tool currently has the KC playmaker projected to earn a little over $10.3 million per year in average annual salary. A four-year deal at that rate would net Hardman $41.558 million, per Spotrac.
Again, too much for Kansas City. The wide receiver market is currently booming around the NFL and despite his inconsistencies, Hardman still offers unique abilities that others cannot. He may not get a ton of guaranteed money, but some team will most likely woo him with an incentivized contract that includes a featured role in the offense.
The competition is looking for any and all talent that they can steal away from the Chiefs, and Hardman has that in spades. Not to mention general manager Brett Veach will be more focused on Smith-Schuster.
Patrick Mahomes II wants his number one wide receiver back for another season, and head coach Andy Reid spoke glowingly of the key pass-catcher as well. If the Chiefs do spend at the WR position this spring, it’ll be on JuJu, not Hardman.