Mecole Hardman should have no shortage of motivation for Chiefs

Mecole Hardman has another chance to show off with a primetime franchise after sitting the bench in New York.
Kansas City Chiefs v New York Jets
Kansas City Chiefs v New York Jets / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Mecole Hardman has a new lease on life. We have every reason to believe he's very aware of it.

It's been an unhappy road in recent months for Hardman, and perhaps it's felt that way for quite some time. Certainly, sections of the road have even felt unfair, a claim that could reach as far back as his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. Either way, Hardman is back after the Chiefs swapped low-level picks with the Jets, which gives him a sort of chance to turn things around.

If Hardman is focused and ready for a change of environment, the Chiefs have set him up with about as good of an opportunity as he could have expected after starting the year the way he did. And that should keep him plenty motivated.

Mecole Hardman has another chance to show off with a primetime franchise after sitting the bench in New York.

Here's the harsh truth facing Hardman: the goal of a major payday is likely out the window. He hit free agency at his youngest last spring and came away with a single-season commitment from the Jets worth $3.5 million in guaranteed money. That's life-changing money to be sure, but it's hardly the long-term commitment that most young athletes dream of one day receiving at the pro level.

Last spring, Hardman could point to an injury-riddled contract season with the Chiefs, in which a hamstring injury limited him in the first month and an abdomen/core muscle injury kept him on injured reserve for everything after Week 8, as the season for the less-than-stellar showing in free agency. It made sense to sign a one-year deal to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers and show what he could do away from Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid.

The frustrating part is that his time with the Jets, even that short span, was more harmful than the injury-laden season. At least that had an explanation attached, but it's hard to say why the Jets paid a few million for an asset who never received a chance to succeed for Robert Saleh's team. Hardman received only three targets on the season and caught one pass for six yards.

Now that he's back in Kansas City, Hardman should feel two primary things: gratitude and motivation. The gratitude comes in being able to step right back into an impactful role and put up something positive in an already-familiar environment. There's something to be said for a homecoming and Hardman has one here.

Even more important is the motivational aspect. Hardman doesn't need to set the offense on fire or feel otherworldly expectations for the rest of the season. Rather, if he can at least provide some positive efforts when tasked with offensive targets or plays and/or in the return game, he's already a step ahead of where he was with the Jets. But in this window of opportunity, he might be able to convince another team next spring to give him another chance knowing how odd this season was.

In short, Hardman went from frustratingly sitting on the bench without any real logical understanding for a team that's likely going to sit at home in January to a reprised role in a familiar place. It's a team that knows what he can and cannot do and they will scheme around that accordingly, setting him up to succeed.

Let's not forget, and this is a limited sample size, so it's irresponsible to look into it too much, but Hardman felt right for four games last year. In that span, he had 17 catches for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns. Extrapolate that out to 17 games and you have 1,000 yards on the season with 12 touchdowns. Again, that's irresponsible to lay that on Hardman at the present hour, but he wasn't some offensive chump when healthy last year and with Tyreek Hill's shadow finally gone.

It feels safe to believe Hardman will be quite motivated by his reunion with K.C., and the results on the field could surprise most of us if he's healthy and ready.