Through five weeks of the NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs' offense simply hasn't been itself. With the exception of the 31-point drubbing of the Chicago Bears (a 41-point performance), Andy Reid and company have been held under 30 points four times. The offense is currently ranked ninth in the NFL in scoring offense (25.6 points per game). Compare that to the first five weeks of the 2022 season when the Chiefs posted point totals of 44, 41, and 30 over the same stretch of games. This team has clearly been under the weather on the offensive side of the football.
To be fair, the reasons why the offense has struggled to this point in the season are the result of several variables. One such factor to which the inconsistency can be attributed is the play of the wide receiver corps. It's fair to extend some grace to a room of largely unproven, inexperienced players, but there's no arguing the early returns have been a disappointment. Rashee Rice has been a bright spot, but there's little else to hang your hat on with this receiver room.
At this stage in the season, you're unlikely to make wholesale changes to what some are calling a talent-poor position group. The month of October always brings raucous trade talk to the fore. Such has been the case for Kansas City as fans and pundits have suggested the Chiefs could benefit from acquiring reinforcements at the position. At press time, it's being reported that Mecole Hardman and the New York Jets may soon be parting ways. Could he be the offensive spark the Kansas City Chiefs are looking for?
Given the struggles of the wide receiver room to start the 2023 season, there's a case to be made for bringing him home.
Hardman — the 56th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft — spent four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. During his tenure, he racked up 16 touchdowns and 2,088 receiving yards on 151 receptions. He never played to his draft position, but had a significant role in this offense as a player capable of creating chunk plays. That's not to say he was without limitations. Hardman is not a reliable route runner and never had the symbiotic relationship Patrick Mahomes enjoyed with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. He won't single-handedly fix what ails this group of receivers, but fortunately for Hardman and the Chiefs, he won't have to.
The Chiefs don't need a singular answer to their offensive woes; they need a spark. Hardman isn't going to complicate a crowded room. If they acquire him, via trade or from the waiver wire, he'll replace Montrell Washington on the depth chart. Hardman has a ton of return experience and could easily do the job Washington is presently doing on special teams. As valuable as he's been, he's not contributing anything to Kansas City's offense. Hardman could be productive in both areas. The Chiefs don't need a sea change at wide receiver, they need someone to help bolster the room.
Hardman has what many of the Chiefs' current receivers don't — a lot of service time and system familiarity. His best season with Kansas City was the 2021 season where he had 693 receiving yards. That would be a career-high for every wide receiver currently on this football team. I think his presence would also help simplify the rotation at receiver. Hardman can occupy the flares, jet sweeps, and quick outs that have been assigned to Kadarius Toney. That would free him up for different route concepts at other spots on the field. Hardman would also give you another player who can threaten teams vertically. Presently, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson own that responsibility so such a move could create creative personnel grouping options for Kansas City.
It also helps that Hardman won't be expensive to acquire. If the Chiefs were to trade for him, the Jets would pay the bulk of his modest 2023 salary. It's also unlikely Kansas City would have to offer much in terms of compensation. For me, this is a no-brainer. You get a player you're intimately familiar with, for pennies on the dollar, that gives you 4.3 speed and offensive versatility. It's a low-risk, high-reward proposition that I think general manager Brett Veach should strongly consider. This offense doesn't need a world-beater, it needs a solid contributor and Hardman has already shown us that he can be that for this football team.
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