Super Bowl Winning Wide Receiver ‘Affordable’ for Giants

Mecole Hardman

Getty The New York Giants can add an "affordable" Super Bowl winner to their wide receiver corps.

Fixing a long-endured problem at wide receiver is something the New York Giants must make room for during what promises to be a busy offseason. General manager Joe Schoen also must deal with pressing concerns like securing the futures of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

One way Schoen can thread the financial needle is to look for “affordable” receivers in 2023 NFL free agency. Mecole Hardman qualifies, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic.

Hardman, who’s helped the Kansas City Chiefs win two Super Bowls, is an excellent fit for the Giants for several reasons. He’s known to offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, after the latter served as quarterbacks coach for the Chiefs.

Kafka will have seen in Hardman the athleticism and versatility that let him be a scoring threat in three different phases. The 24-year-old can help the Giants replace recently released Sterling Shepard and be a more dynamic version of free agent Richie James.

Gadget Speedster an Obvious Upgrade for Giants

Hardman is something of a gadget playmaker for the Chiefs. The 5’10”, 187-pounder is undersized for the position, but Hardman proved a worthy member of the Chiefs’ vaunted ‘Legion of Zoom,’ a collection of fleet-footed wideouts all capable of stretching the field.

That group was disbanded last offseason when Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins, Demarcus Robinson signed with the Baltimore Ravens and Byron Pringle joined the Chicago Bears.

Hardman looked set to step into the Hill role, but an Abdomen injury limited him to just eight games and five starts. He still averaged 11.9 yards on 25 catches, 14 of which went for 1st downs, per Pro Football Reference.

Gaining 160 yards after the catch showed Hardman’s still a threat to turn any completion into a big play. He can also produce long gains in a single chunk, like this 30-yard grab against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2:

The Giants need more plays like this through the air after producing just 28 completions of 20-plus yards last season, the fewest in the NFL. Often times, Kafka and head coach Brian Daboll were left to manufacture big plays via misdirection and using different players in a variety of ways.

Hardman fits the bill as somebody who could increase the creativity of the Giants’ offense. Specifically, his skills as a runner, showcased by this 25-yard score against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, would prove invaluable:

Ironically, the Giants trading Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs back on October 28 cut into Hardman’s role. Toney became the same running, receiving and returning threat in KC’s explosive offense.

The Giants felt comfortable trading Toney because they had James and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson on the roster. Robinson tore his ACL against the Detroit Lions in Week 11, but James finished the season tied with Barkley for a team-high 57 receptions.

James was also expected to be a demon returning punts, but he averaged 7.3 yards on 24 runbacks, while ball security also became a problem. Hardman has proved a more dynamic option in the kicking game, evidenced by this 104-yard kickoff return during his rookie season in 2019:

The Chiefs ended that season by winning Super Bowl LIV. They won another Lombardi Trophy this season at the expense of the Philadelphia Eagles, although Hardman was back on injured reserve for the big game.

Once he’s healthy, Hardman would allow the Giants to follow a free-agency plan that served Schoen well during his time with the Buffalo Bills.

Giants Must Target Quantity in Wide Receiver Search

Duggan thinks the Giants can follow the “prudent blueprint” Schoen used in Buffalo in 2019. It involved foregoing “taking a big swing for a No. 1 wide receiver.”

Instead, Schoen, then assistant general manager for the Bills, targeted “quality middle-class free agents, signing Cole Beasley (four years, $29 million) and John Brown (three years, $27 million).”

Hardman qualifies, especially since he has a projected market value of $10.3 million annually over four years, per A deal paying those terms would be a bargain way for the Giants to retool a position group already undergoing change.

Shepard’s contract was automatically voided on Wednesday, February 15, while James and Darius Slayton are still set to enter the market. Hardman makes sense on multiple levels if the Giants choose to do the same.

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