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Chiefs trade with Jets, bringing Mecole Hardman back to Kansas City

After letting Hardman go in free agency, Kansas City is bringing him back.

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Through the season's first six weeks, the biggest story surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs has been its wide receiver group. Now, the Chiefs have made a move to shore up the position, making a trade with the New York Jets that sends their wideout Mecole Hardman (and their 2025 seventh-round pick) to Kansas City in exchange for the Chiefs' 2025 sixth-round pick.

Hardman, of course, was a second-round pick for the Chiefs in 2019, collecting two Super Bowl rings during four seasons with the team — along with 26 starts among 57 games, 151 receptions for 2,088 yards (and 16 touchdowns), 20 rushes for 125 yards (and two touchdowns) and 101 kick returns for 1,482 yards (and two touchdowns).

In March, the Chiefs allowed Hardman to seek a new deal in free agency. He signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Jets. But $2.5 million of that figure was a signing bonus that will continue to count against New York's salary cap — along with a $500,000 workout bonus he earned there.

So the Chiefs will take over the balance of Hardman's $1.08 million base salary for 2023 ($720,000) and a per-game roster bonus of $24,705. Since Hardman played eight games in 2022 — and has already earned five of these per-game bonuses in New York — a maximum of three will count against Kansas City's 2023 cap. The rest are considered not-likely-to-be-earned (NLTBE) for 2023 — and if earned, will count against the 2024 cap. Hardman could also earn separate incentives for at least 50 receptions, 650 yards and six touchdowns. These start at $125,000 and ramp up to 500,000 — all of them NLTBE this season.

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