On Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs got much-needed wide receiver help by pivoting back to an old friend. The New York Jets traded Mecole Hardman to the Chiefs for a swap of late-round picks, as first reported by Adam Schefter.
The move sends Hardman back to the team that drafted him back in 2019. New York picked up Hardman this past free agency, signing him to a one-year, $4 million contract in the summer.
Turns out the Chiefs needed Hardman more than the Jets do in 2023.
Amid a handful of wide receiver trades this season (Van Jefferson, Chase Claypool), the Chiefs-Jets swap follows the same bare bones framework.
The Jets sent Hardman and a 2025 seventh-rounder to the Chiefs in return for a 2025 sixth-rounder.
NFL trade grades: Chiefs swallow pride and bring back Mecole Hardman for cheap
Chiefs grade: A-
Don't make this any bigger than it is. The Chiefs were satisfied enough with their wide receiver room to let Mecole Hardman walk in free agency, realized their mistake, and traded for him in October. An admirable case of pride-swallowing by Andy Reid and Co. who, unlike other franchises, are man enough to admit when they are wrong.
There's no bad blood here, other than the song that may play in the Chiefs locker room from time to time. Hardman spent the first four years of his career in Kansas City racking up 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns, and the most important attribute he brings to the Chiefs in 2023 is trust. Maybe the Chiefs saw the Eagles sign Julio Jones, who already has chemistry with existing Philly receivers, and thought they'd do the same.
Through six weeks, Patrick Mahomes hasn't found any pass-catcher he can trust outside of Travis Kelce. Bringing back Hardman makes the front office look a tad silly for letting him go in the first place, yet Kansas City didn't have to give up much for him. In return, the Chiefs get a familiar face who has started 16 games or more in three seasons in Kansas City and, most importantly, has earned the trust and faith of Mahomes.
This is a win for Kansas City. A small one, but still a win.
Jets grade: A
It's become clear that Mecole Hardman was not going to be a part of the Jets' offensive plans moving forward, and good on the Jets for getting something in return for him.
Hardman played just 28 offensive snaps through the first six weeks, losing playing time to UDFA Xavier Gipson and even the underwhelming Randall Cobb. New York will now get to move up in the late rounds of the 2025 draft after shelling out pennies for Hardman in the offseason. Some Jets fans would have rather kicked Cobb to the curb and tried to incorporate Hardman more in the offense, yet for whatever reason, the Jets are sticking with their main guns.
That's fine. They know their identity and are happy to part with a player they deemed expendable. Take the pick upgrade and move on. Next up on the trade block: Dalvin Cook?