Although the Chiefs have experienced considerable struggles generating wide receiver consistency, they do not lack for notable names at the position. Mecole Hardman‘s return crowds the group, leaving Richie James potentially without a role when/if he returns from IR.
Hardman has taken over as the Chiefs’ punt returner, and despite his crucial slip-up in the Week 8 loss to the Broncos, he clearly remains in the Chiefs’ plans. On that note, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler indicates the Chiefs are exploring trade possibilities involving James. The free agency addition is on IR but would be ready to return if traded.
The Chiefs have not used any of their IR activations this season, but it does not seem like the defending champions want to allocate one of their eight such moves to James. Resurfacing last year with the Giants, James signed a one-year deal worth $1.23MM in April. The Chiefs used James as their primary punt returner in Weeks 1 and 2, but an MCL injury led him to IR.
A former 49ers slot player, James did not play in 2021 but came back to become a key piece for a receiver-thin Giants team last season. James totaled 569 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 57 receptions, hitting career-high marks across the board. This did not generate James much of a market, however. While James settled in an interesting situation — with a two-time MVP quarterback, in Patrick Mahomes, and on team with uncertainty at wide receiver — he does not appear in Kansas City’s plans any longer.
James made Kansas City’s 53-man roster, joining a seven-wideout contingent in a muddled group following the free agency defections of Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Chiefs largely sought to replace the exiting players internally, with James and second-round pick Rashee Rice being outside additions. But holdovers Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have not contributed regularly. Hardman has considerable experience as a Chiefs receiving option, but after being recently reacquired from the Jets, the fifth-year speedster has three receptions for 19 yards in two games. It should be expected Hardman’s role will expand as the weeks pass, and as K.C. keeps seeing receiver unreliability, but the former second-round pick has primarily seen action as a returner in his second stint.
Prior to the Chiefs’ 15-point loss in Denver, a report indicated they were not planning a post-Hardman receiver addition. But Kansas City’s receiver plan has not panned out thus far, pointing to the team exploring a move to find more help for its Travis Kelce-dependent aerial corps. Second-year UDFA Justyn Ross has not contributed much, but the Clemson product is out of the mix right now. The NFL placed Ross on the commissioner exempt list last week, following an arrest that brought a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.