Vikings in Contract Talks With Super Bowl-Winning WR, Former All-Pro

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

Getty Wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after a penalty against the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game in January 2023.

Following the release of Adam Thielen, it is only a matter of time before the Minnesota Vikings add to the wide receiver room.

Justin Jefferson is the best the NFL has to offer and K.J. Osborn is more than capable as a third-option at wideout, but a playmaking void exists between them on the roster. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is great enough in his own right to be Kirk Cousins‘ No. 2 target next season, which means the Vikings could prioritize field-stretching speed over anything else in their hunt for another receiver.

Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported on Tuesday, March 21, that Minnesota is involved in “casual dialogue” with free agent Mecole Hardman about joining the team this season.

Hardman Offers Vikings Speed, Scoring Threat in Multiple Phases

Mecole Hardman

GettyWide receiver Mecole Hardman of the Kansas City Chiefs runs with the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on November 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

Hardman has played all four of his NFL seasons with Kansas City Chiefs, making his bones as both a wide receiver and a kick returner.

He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors as a return man during his rookie season in 2019. Hardman has also served a meaningful role as a receiving target for Patrick Mahomes since joining the league, contributing significantly to both of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl runs.

Hardman has been especially dangerous in the red zone, tallying 151 catches for 2,088 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns over his tenure with the Chiefs. He has also rushed the ball 20 times for 125 yards and two scores. Hardman’s role as a returner has lessened as his career has progressed, though he lays claim to a total of 3,695 all-purpose yards across four years in the league and has scored two special teams touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

Hardman Fills Need, Fits Financially as Jefferson Extension Looms

Justin Jefferson, Vikings

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings scores a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during a game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A second-round pick of the Chiefs out of Georgia in 2019, Spotrac projects Hardman’s market value at approximately $10.3 million per season over the life of a four-year deal, valuing the hypothetical contract just north of $41.5 million.

As of Tuesday, the Vikings were approximately $6 million over the 2023 salary cap, meaning the team will need to move a significant amount of money around to clear room for him, though doing so is feasible.

What complicates all matters for Minnesota is that the team’s biggest bill of the offseason has yet to come due — an extension for Jefferson projected to be the richest receiver contract in history and likely to carry the most guaranteed dollars for any such deal as well.

The price of NFL pass-catchers is going up, with Davante Adams setting a new bar at $28 million annually last offseason with the Las Vegas Raiders, before Tyreek Hill topped that total in short order by locking in $30 million per season from the Miami Dolphins.

Hardman certainly is no Hill or Adams, but he is a deep threat with an array of skills that allow him to be utilized as a receiver, rusher and return specialist. The Vikings will be well-bought if they can bring the 25-year-old Hardman in anywhere between the $7 to $9 million range annually. That is even more true considering the team also needs to start thinking about how it will pay Hockenson, who will play out the final year of his rookie contract in 2023.

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