Drafted three years ago at a time when an off-field issue that ultimately resolved favorably for Hill raised real questions about his future, Hardman now has a chance to replace Hill.
Hovering over Hardman’s potential ascension in 2022 is the fact that he’s entering the last year of his contract. There’s a potential sweet spot for player and team when it comes to the timing of a deal. G.M. Brett Veach recently addressed the timing of a Hardman contract in an interview with #PFTPM.
“It’s a good question,” Veach said. “I think one of the things that makes it more difficult is just where this receiver market went. On one hand, we can sit there and come up with something that makes sense for us and him. But on the other hand, when you come off of free agency period with these numbers were so high and there’s also the mindset or thought process of the cap will only get bigger now.
“I think it’ll probably tend to go in the direction where the agents and the players want to wait and if last year’s any indication of where this thing’s going to go, at some point it’ll kind of flatline out and things will become more balanced in regards to getting stuff done ahead of time. We’ll certainly have those type of conversations, but I think that if this offseason tipped its hand it’s more in the lines of the agent and the player just saying, ‘Well, might as well just wait.’ A lot of players benefitted from waiting and I think until that flatlines and settles down, I think there’ll be more of a desire for probably the agents more so to wait and play it out.”
The Chiefs nevertheless could try to get ahead of things, getting Hardman signed to a favorable contract before he takes off — if he indeed does. If he does, however, he’ll want (and deserve) an adjustment. So why not wait to pay him until seeing what he can do?
Through three seasons, Hardman hasn’t generate high-end production, with career highs in 2021 of 59 catches and 693 receiving yards. With Hill and Travis Kelce and, before 2021, Sammy Watkins, the opportunities weren’t plentiful for Hardman. This year, they could be. What he does with those chances will go a long way toward determining how much he gets paid and from which team.