Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have traded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, Mecole Hardman is now the team’s most senior wideout. In 2022, he’ll finally have the opportunity to show whether he can step out from behind Hill’s superstar shadow.
But this moment arrives as Hardman is entering the final year of the four-year contract he signed after being taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft — and as the market for free-agent wide receivers has exploded.
Does this mean that Hardman and the Chiefs will want to work out a new deal before the beginning of the coming season? Or do the two sides want to wait and see how Hardman’s 2022 production (and the wide-receiver market) look next spring?
“It’s a good question,” Kansas City general manager Brett Veach told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio during Monday’s edition of the “PFT PM” podcast. “I think one of the things that makes it more difficult is just where this receiver market went.
“On one hand, we can sit there and come up with something that makes sense for us and him. But on the other hand, when you come off of free agency period with these numbers were so high and there’s also the mindset or thought process of the cap will only get bigger now.
All things considered, Veach told Florio that he believes that it will be next spring before there are serious conversations between the two camps about a contract for 2023 and beyond.
“I think it’ll probably tend to go in the direction where the agents and the players want to wait,” he surmised. “And if last year’s any indication of where this thing’s going to go, at some point it’ll kind of flatline out and things will become more balanced in regards to getting stuff done ahead of time.”
But as always, Veach said he is leaving his office door open.
“We’ll certainly have those type of conversations,” he allowed. “But I think that if this offseason tipped its hand, it’s more in the lines of the agent and the player just saying, ‘Well, might as well just wait.’ A lot of players benefitted from waiting — and I think until that flatlines and settles down, I think there’ll be more of a desire (for probably the agents moreso [than the players]) to wait and play it out.”
Whether that will play out in Hardman’s favor — or the team’s — remains to be seen. Veach noted that former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is coming to the Chiefs after being in a very similar situation to the one Hardman has faced in Kansas City.
“When you have those guys, your offense is really tough to stop,” said Veach. “But at the same time, you’re going to have a ton of production out of a Tyreek Hill and out of a Travis Kelce. There’s only so many balls to go around — and certainly with Davante Adams being there [and] the tight end at Green Bay also [having] a lot of production — they’ve had a ton of weapons over the years.”
Veach said that with players like Valdes-Scantling, Hardman and Watkins in those kinds of scenarios, you have to look at the total offensive production — rather than individual stats.
“I mean, if you don’t have those guys, certainly Travis and Tyreek will still get theirs and be productive — but when you have those guys, it just makes it all the more difficult to keep track of every single player. So I think their value falls more in line with the overall production of the offense.
“It’s a little bit misleading when you just look at [their] catch and the yardage production. But I think when these guys sign somewhere — and it’s not cheap, it’s more, because teams and coaches see the role and the value — when the opportunity presents itself, these guys make plays and do things.”
The general manager said that even with all the turnover in the wide receiver corps, the Kansas City offense will continue to do what it’s always done.
“Sporadically throughout the last four, five-six years, we’ve had many games without Tyreek and many games without Travis,” he reminded Florio. “You can easily argue that it’s a small sample size — it’s only a few games and what-have-you — but we still love the talent on this team.
“We have guys that can run — like Mecole Hardman and MVS (and we’re going to add a rookie here in Skyy Moore) — and then we have some size with Travis and with JuJu [Smith-Schuster]. On top of that, we also have a great offensive line.
“So I think there will be many ways to score points — and I think Coach will never be short of creativity. I think our game plan will be much like it was — and [as it] has been every year: just find ways to get these guys in positions to win.”
But Veach wasn’t saying there would be no offensive adjustments. He also noted that the team is “confident” in running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire — and that with the addition of free-agent running back Ronald Jones, the team will be more balanced.
“I think the team’s looking forward to the challenge of being a little bit different on offense — and trying to do different things — just like we’ve done with Tyreek and the RPO stuff. Some of the defenses are now predictable — they’re just dropping everybody — [so] it’ll allow us to get a little more creative and utilize some different concepts.”
The whole interview — which lasted more than 20 minutes — is well worth your time. Check it out here.