One offseason ago, the Los Angeles Rams were a part of a wide receiver market that changed forever in the NFL. As high-profile names like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Deebo Samuel and even Cooper Kupp were given blockbuster deals or extensions, the Rams also scored Allen Robinson in free agency.
Could the Rams become capable of making another splash this offseason? Karl Rasmussen of Clutch Points has pointed out who he believes is a No. 1 early offseason target for L.A: 2019 Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion wideout from the Kansas City Chiefs Mecole Hardman, who’s an unrestricted free agent for the upcoming cycle.
“If Mecole Hardman doesn’t return to the Chiefs, the Rams could be an intriguing landing spot for the blazing-fast wideout,” Rasmussen wrote in his Monday, January 16 feature.
Hardman Became Limited in KC
Hardman added to the plethora of speed for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in their 2019 run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. While catching just 26 passes for 538 yards and scoring six receiving touchdowns, he added 704 kick return yards and averaged 26.1 yards per return as a specialist, which earned him his Pro Bowl honors.
The former second rounder out of Georgia began to see a steady increase in receptions and yards the next two seasons — 41 catches for 560 yards in 2020 then 59 grabs for 693 yards in 2021. He started in eight games for both seasons. Hardman was also one of Chiefs who scored in the epic AFC Divisional contest against the Buffalo Bills won by KC in overtime.
However, he began to see a decline in playing time this past season, which could point to his potential departure with it being his contract year.
“Hardman [was] only featured in eight games for the Chiefs in 2022 and could hit unrestricted free agency this offseason,” Rasmussen said.
Additionally, Hardman only started in five contests for the Chiefs and ended up with career low numbers in receptions with 25 and yards with 297 while scoring twice, including on this red zone shovel pass from Mahomes:
Hardman is in the final season of his rookie deal and earned $3,911,000 in his base salary this season per Spotrac.
Blazing Speed Could be Valuable Asset for Rams if Hardman is Added
Once training camp hits, the Rams should have their WR1 and WR2 at full strength after missing the rest of their 2022 with ankle and foot ailments, respectively. But adding a receiver who once blazed his 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds could entice the Rams’ offense spearheaded by Sean McVay — and have Hardman become the guy who blows the top off defenses.
“While the Rams will bring back Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson next year, adding the speed and deep threat that is Hardman could open up the offense for LA,” Rasmussen said. “Robinson barely found his footing in Los Angeles during his debut season with the Rams. Adding Hardman to the mix alongside him, Kupp, and Tutu Atwell, as well as Tyler Higbee, could help all the aforementioned players get better looks on offense.”
The Rams additionally find themselves facing the chance of losing versatile receiver/return man Brandon Powell, who’s an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Hardman could become what DeSean Jackson could’ve been when the Rams lured in the aging wideout in 2021 if the Rams take a chance on the upcoming Chiefs UFA.
“Hardman had a career-low 25 receptions in 2022, but he’s shown time and time again the difference he can make in KC’s offense,” Rasmussen said. “Adding an explosive weapon like him to the mix in Los Angeles could help kickstart an offense that scored just 18.1 points per game and 27th in the NFL.”