Jets sign ex-Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman to one-year, free agent contract: source

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — There have been rumors of the Jets being involved in the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes.

But on Wednesday, Gang Green decided to add a different dynamic receiver to its offense.

The Jets have signed ex-Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman to a one-year contract, according to a source. Hardman’s deal is for $6.5 million, ESPN is reporting.

Hardman played the first four seasons of his career with the Chiefs after they selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. Although Hardman never quite lived up to his expectations coming out of Georgia, he is a versatile player who can stretch the field with his speed.

In four seasons in Kansas City, Hardman recorded 151 catches for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns. His best individual season was in 2021, when Hardman had 59 catches for 693 yards and two TDs.

Hardman played in the slot in over 52% of his snaps last season. He has the versatility to be a weapon as an outside option or as a third or fourth receiver for the Jets. In 2021, Hardman finished second in the NFL among wide receivers in yards after catch (8.6).

The Jets are also getting a much-needed returner in Hardman after they released Braxton Berrios earlier this month after four seasons. As a rookie, Hardman made the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro selection as a returner. That year, the Georgia native averaged 26.1 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown. He also averaged 9.3 yards per punt return and helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV.

Hardman will also likely be used on jet sweeps, much like how the team utilized Berrios in their offense.

As the Jets continue to talk with the Packers about acquiring superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, having a weapon like Hardman will only help a Jets offense that finished 25th in yards (318.2) and 29th in points per game (17.4) during last season’s 7-10 campaign.

Hardman’s skill set should complement Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard, who the Jets just signed last week, perfectly as defenders must pay attention to his ability to score on any play. However, Hardman is coming off a 2022 season where he was limited to eight games due to an abdomen injury. He did return for the AFC championship game, but was deactivated for the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII victory over the Eagles.

Last year, Hardman had 25 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns. He also averaged 9.2 yards per punt return.

With the addition of Hardman, that likely means the Jets won’t sign Beckham. Last week, the Jets were one of the estimated 14 teams that attended Beckham’s workout in Arizona.

Beckham is reportedly looking for a contract worth $20 million annually, per Pro Football Talk. However, the former Giants star denied this on Twitter.

With Hardman, the Jets get a player with a low risk and a possible high reward, as he still has a lot of room for growth. They also get a player who just turned 25 and doesn’t have two ACL surgery like the 30-year-old Beckham has had over the last three seasons.