Coming into the offseason, we knew the Kansas City Chiefs had work to do in the wide receiver room. As I outlined in February, the team was set to lose three wideouts from the active roster — and a key special-teams contributor — in free agency.
Kansas City is still set to lose 1,545 yards of wide receiver production to the open market. Along with Hardman, three more of the team’s wideouts will hit free agency: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Watson and Marcus Kemp.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is expected to sign with the New England Patriots, per sources. First reported by @TaylorBisciotti— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 15, 2023
The Chiefs tried to retain the receiver, but he is off to New England.
And Kemp — who spent 2022 on the the Chiefs’ practice squad, from which he was elevated for the maximum of three regular-season games and three postseason contests — was signed by the Washington Commanders.
So let’s take a look at some of the remaining free-agent wide receivers Kansas City could target.
1. Odell Beckham Jr.
At one point, Beckham was one of the game's biggest stars — and still carries significant name recognition. But in recent years, injuries (and an up-and-down stint with the Cleveland Browns) have curbed his production.
Beckham is now coming off his second ACL tear, which came during Super Bowl LVI while playing for the Los Angeles Rams. He is reported to be seeking a multi-year deal. While It makes sense for the 30-year-old wideout to try for one final contract, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for a team to give one to him.
A prototypical X-receiver with a large catch radius who can win one-on-one matchups on the outside, Beckham can also play through contact and catch the ball over the middle, attacking the ball at the catch point like few others. His ability to make highlight-reel plays is on par with the best to ever play the game — but his biggest weakness has been his ability to stay healthy.
In recent years, the Chiefs have often been identified as a team with interest in Beckham; in February 2022, Kansas City general manager Brett Veach spoke about him. The sticking point will likely be whether the Chiefs are willing to give Beckham a multi-year deal — and it seems unlikely they will. But if he is willing to sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal similar to what Smith-Schuster signed last offseason, he could end up in Kansas City.
2. Adam Thielen
Thielen could replace Smith-Schuster’s production almost perfectly. At 32, the longtime Minnesota Vikings receiver is no spring chicken. But last season, he registered 70 receptions (on 107 targets) for 716 yards and six touchdowns. His yards per target, however, have declined in each of the last four years; his 2022 figure of 6.7 was a career low.
Still, Thielen is a savvy veteran with a great release. He can play any receiving position, moving the chains with 8-15 yards per catch. He isn’t likely to accumulate many flashy highlight-reel plays — but he is a dependable receiver who isn’t going to make dumb mistakes. That makes him a valuable player.
It wouldn’t make sense to break the bank for Thielen — but with a one-year deal that makes sense for both sides, he could be the latest veteran to come to Kansas City in search of a championship ring to cap off a successful career.
3. DJ Chark
The youngest player on this list, the 26-year-old speedster is coming off an injury-shortened season with the Detroit Lions where he caught 30 passes (on 52 targets) for 502 yards and three touchdowns. Listed at 6’4” and 198 pounds, he isn’t a big wideout; with his slight frame, he’s struggled to hold up for full seasons. Over his five-year career, he’s missed 28 games with injuries.
Still, Chark can stretch the field vertically with the best of them. Coming out of LSU in 2018, he was a Scouting Combine hero, posting a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, a 40.5-inch vertical jump and an 11’3” broad jump. Even better, this athleticism shows up on tape. He is a legitimate deep threat.
As long as he’s healthy, Chark can replace what Kansas City would give up from Hardman’s loss — and maybe provide a little bit more. If the Chiefs can get him on a three-year deal with a reasonable average salary, he could make a lot of sense.