Mecole Hardman Make it or break it year

With a deeper wide receiver room than in previous seasons, Mecole Hardman will need to step up his production to earn his second contract with the Chiefs

Mecole Hardman signed a four-year rookie contract after being taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the 2022 season will be the last year of his deal. Hardman was brought to the Chiefs as a possible replacement for Tyreek Hill after his legal issues during the 2019 offseason.

Now the Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, and Mecole Hardman is now the team’s longest-tenured wide receiver. In 2022, he’ll finally have the opportunity to show whether he can step out from behind Hill’s shadow.

If Hardman wants to remain a Chief after the 2022 season, he’ll have to show what he can bring to this team, he’s been somewhat of a disappointment so far in his career since his rookie season. He hasn’t been consistent to earn more touches or hasn’t been seen as reliable by the offensive staff as Byron Pringle saw more snaps than Hardman did last season. If he can be more consistent in 2022, what does that mean for his future in Kansas City?

“It’s a good question,” Kansas City general manager Brett Veach told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio a few days ago. “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.”

It sure does sound like it’s a wait-and-see strategy for the Chiefs as they know that people will try to get a boost in production to get a second contract. Hardman will also have to show that he has vastly improved to earn his snaps this year as the Chiefs added a lot of depth at the wide receiver position.

Mecole Hardman surely can run, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the 2019 NFL Combine and he has been a burner when he gets an opportunity in space. But adding another speedster in Marquez Valez-Scantling might limit Hardman’s opportunities going forward as he can do what Hardman can do but he’s a 6-foot-4.

It’s not to say that Hardman is a bad player or that he doesn’t have promise, he just needs to get better for the 2022 season. He is coming off a good year according to Coach Reid, he had the most targets (83), receptions (59), and yards (693) in his career last season.

“He made a lot of big plays in big moments,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said.

Playing alongside Hill, Kelce, and Mahomes for three years, Hardman has the experience and a Super Bowl ring. Hardman will need to show that he can be the leader on the field as well as in the locker room to get his next contract with Kansas City. If Hardman can play consistently well and lead the team in receptions or yards this season, expect him to be back in KC for a while.