Free Agent WR Mecole Hardman Tweeted at Justin Fields, Which...

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Free Agent WR Mecole Hardman Tweeted at Justin Fields (If You’re Keeping Track of That Sorta Thing)

Chicago Bears

If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like when I try to connect the Bears offseason dots, it’s something like that red-string conspiracy scene from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Seriously. I used to have the same setup, too. But then I went digital, so now it all lives in in the notes app on my phone. However, if I still had the layout across the pool table in my basement, I’d print out this Mecole Hardman Tweet tagging Bears quarterback Justin Fields in the middle of the storyboard and proceed to figure out what it could mean:

Mecole Hardman, 24, is coming off a 25-catch, 297-yard, 4 touchdown season in 8 games with the Chiefs last year. An ankle injury put him on IR, causing him to miss some time in Kansas City’s championship-winning season. Nevertheless, he’s one of the more intriguing free agents about to hit the market.

But, as always, there are some warts.

  • 2019: 26 catches, 538 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
  • 2020: 41 catches, 560 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
  • 2021: 59 catches, 693 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

For one, while Hardman’s reception and yardage numbers had been on the up-swing prior to 2022, his yards/reception and touchdown totals were declining. That doesn’t seem ideal. And for another, you’d think someone with Hardman’s speed could take advantage of Patrick Mahomes’ arm and Travis Kelce’s extra attention. But … not quite. That won’t stop me from thinking about how it could work in Chicago, where the conditions won’t be as rosy, but it’s worth a mention.

On the flip side, Hardman DID rank second in PFF’s yards after the catch per reception for 2020 and 2021, which isn’t too shabby. It is also worth underscoring that Hardman ranked eighth in that stat category at the time of his injury in November. In other words, he has a skillset the Bears could utilize.

And since the Bears are hardly in a position to be turning down receiver talent at the moment …I’m thinking, yeah, going after Hardman might be worth it.

  • Mecole Hardman has an existing relationship with the Bears’ starting QB. That isn’t inconsequential. We’ve seen how the Ja’Marr Chase-Joe Burrow, Jaylen Waddle-Tua Tagovailoa, and DeVonta Smith-Jalen Hurts tag teams of college bros going pro has worked for other teams. So while I’ll fall short of predicting a Fields-Hardman tandem will match the high-profile ones we just mentioned, there is value I’m those two having a connection. Value that could see its way onto the playing field and eventually into the box score. There is something about a quarterback throwing to someone who he feels comfortable targeting that feels like it should be quantifiable, but instead feels like a noteworthy intangible.
  • Mecole Hardman fits a need. No, Hardman won’t end their quest for a legitimate wide receiver. But that room, collectively, needs upgrades. And if you can do it by adding a player with speed who also has some room to grow, that could be something that works. When free agency opens its doors, I can see the Bears going after Hardman. It might not be popular, and it wouldn’t solve their biggest issues at the position. But it is could work as a complementary piece in the receivers room. Think of how Taylor Gabriel was used in Chicago during the 2018 season.
  • Signing Mecole Hardman would NOT be cost prohibitive from a cap flexibility standpoint. Pro Football Focus projects Hardman gets a three-year contract from his next team. A short-term contract is both player-friendly (it gets them back onto the market sooner) and team-friendly (these types of deals are usually drawn up so the team can get out of them quicker). And it’s not as if the contract would be all that lofty in terms of cost. PFF forecasts a deal worth $22.5 million total that includes $13 million in guarantees and comes at a per-year cost of $7.5 million. Again, this isn’t a nightmarish contract.

As it stands, Hardman should be a person of interest when free agency opens. His name is one we’ll keep an eye on with great interest.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.