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Mecole Hardman trade grades: Jets send former Chiefs WR back to Kansas City for swap of late-round draft picks

Mecole Hardman is heading back to the Kansas City Chiefs. The New York Jets have moved on from Hardman after six games, trading him back to the Chiefs in an exchange of late-round picks, ESPN reports and confirmed by CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. 

The Jets will receive a 2025 sixth-round pick from the Chiefs and give K.C. a 2025 seventh-round selection in the deal. Hardman only played 28 snaps for the Jets this season after signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the team. He has only one catch for six yards in five games. He received just three targets in his short tenure with the Jets, a significantly different experience from what he had in Kansas City. 

Hardman, a former second-round pick of the Chiefs, had 151 catches for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns in four seasons with Kansas City. His best season was his rookie campaign (2019), when he finished with 26 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns — averaging 20.7 yards per catch. 

With Hardman goes back to the Chiefs, here how each team graded out in the deal:

Chiefs: B

Hard to find fault in the Chiefs for taking a player who has known the system for four years. Hardman played just eight games with the Chiefs last season, but was effective when he was on the field (25 catches, 297 yards, four touchdowns). The Chiefs could use a boost at wide receiver, as only Rashee Rice (21 catches, 245 yards, two touchdowns) and Justin Watson (10 catches, 219 yards) have been giving Patrick Mahomes the help he needs on the outside. 

Hardman can play the slot or line up on the outside, and his past chemistry with Mahomes is valuable. The Chiefs won’t need much time to get Hardman acclimated with the offense either. All it cost the Chiefs was a 2025 sixth-round pick. 

Jets: D

Signing Hardman was a mistake by the Jets, as he only finished with one catch in his five games with the team. The chemistry with Zach Wilson just wasn’t there, nor could Hardman see the field. Hardman was behind Garrett Wilson, Allan Lazard, and Randall Cobb on the depth chart (and Cobb hasn’t done much either). 

Once Aaron Rodgers went down, Hardman’s presence was a waste in the offense. Hardman would have been valuable if Rodgers was healthy, but that changed four snaps into the Jets season. Almost amazing the Jets got anything for Hardman, even if it was a 2025 sixth-round pick (and still had to part ways with a 2025 seventh-round pick to get someone to take his contract). 

Rodgers’ injury changed everything, but the Jets wasted $1.4 million in Hardman (what they paid for six games with him). 

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