Mecole Hardman

Chiefs Place Mitchell Schwartz On IR

Mitchell Schwartz has seen his iron-man run stop this season, having missed time due to injury. The Chiefs will now be without their ace right tackle for a while.

Kansas City placed Schwartz on IR Saturday. This move will sideline the All-Pro blocker for at least three more games. Schwartz is dealing with a back injury — one that has shelved him since Week 6.

Prior to the October injury, Schwartz had not missed a game in eight seasons. He had started four years with the Browns and another four with the Chiefs. Kansas City gave Schwartz an extension in the process, relying on his stability as Eric Fisher underwent surgery last season. Both Fisher and Schwartz landed on Kansas City’s reserve/COVID-19 list recently, but Fisher will be back in action against Las Vegas. Schwartz will not.

The Chiefs also removed Mecole Hardman from their reserve/COVID list. They had placed the second-year wideout on the virus list last week. Hardman should play a key role against the Raiders, with Sammy Watkins set to miss the AFC West rivals’ Week 11 rematch.

Kansas City is also activating Alex Okafor and defensive back L’Jarius Sneed from IR. Okafor worked as a starter last season, but a midseason injury knocked him out for the team’s Super Bowl push. A hamstring injury sidelined Okafor this season. A fourth-round rookie, Sneed played well early this year but suffered a broken collarbone in September. Okafor will help out a Chiefs pass rush that will be without Taco Charlton for a while. The Chiefs placed the offseason acquisition on IR Saturday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/11/20

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DL Tyrone Crawford
  • Claimed off waivers from Colts: DL Ron’Dell Carter

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

AFC West Rumors: Broncos, Gordon, Chiefs

Melvin Gordon is sticking in the AFC West in 2020 after defecting from the Chargers to the Broncos, and the veteran running back feels Denver’s offense is much more suited to his playing style, as he described to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

“They run a lot of inside zones, and that’s what I did a lot at Wisconsin,” Gordon said, noting that he never felt truly comfortable in Los Angeles’ offensive scheme. “It’s going to really help me get back in the feel of what I do best. I’m an inside-zone runner.”

How Gordon’s role will play out in Denver remains to be seen. Phillip Lindsay, who topped 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two NFL seasons, remains on the Broncos’ roster, as does Royce Freeman. But Gordon, who inked a two-year, $16MM deal ($13.5MM guaranteed), figures to be Denver’s primary back.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Chiefs wideout Mecole Hardman made the Pro Bowl as a returner during his rookie campaign in 2019, but his role on special teams may be scaled back going forward. Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub says that while he doesn’t want to lose Hardman’s return skills, the former second round pick may not handle as much ST duty as his role on the Chiefs’ offense increases (Twitter link via James Palmer of NFL.com). Hardman posted 26 receptions for 538 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, but those numbers could increase if he leapfrogs Sammy Watkins to become KC’s No. 2 wide receiver.
  • Free agent signee Nick Vannett is expected to replace Jeff Heuerman as a backup Broncos tight end, as Mike Klis of 9News writes. Vannett left the Steelers to sign a two-year, $5.7MM deal with Denver, while Heuerman has one year and $4MM remaining on his pact. It’s highly unlikely that Denver will choose to retain tight ends given their similar skill set, so Heureman looks like a candidate to be released.
  • Frank Clark played an integral role in bringing former Cowboys/Dolphins defensive end Taco Charlton to the Chiefs.

Tyreek Hill’s Long-Term Future In Kansas City

At the beginning of the 2019 offseason, and before his potential legal issues arose, Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill and the team had begun talks on a long-term deal. The team also included Hill’s name in trade talks according to a report from The Athletic’s Jay Glazer in March

“I heard some rumblings at the start of free agency that his name was being thrown about in trade talks, but at the time thought it had to do with his contract more than anything else,” Glazer wrote.

At the time of these reported talks, Hill had yet to be thrust into the spotlight with reports of child abuse. Earlier this week, the NFL ruled that the star receiver would not face a suspension, stating that with evidence presently available it could not determine that Hill broke the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.

So with the reports of possible trade talks and the ensuing legal issues, where do the Chiefs go with the speedy pass-catcher, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2019?

Contract talks are expected to resume soon, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, and if the teams reach an impasse, a trade again becomes a possibility. Florio notes a deal at the 2019 trade deadline could happen but is unlikely, with an early 2020 deal, assuming the franchise tag is applied, as more of an outcome.

Though the Chiefs could meet Hill’s contract demands — likely $20MM per year — the team also traded up in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft to take Mecole Hardman, who many think could fill the same explosive role that Hill has thrived in. If Hardman proves he can handle the role in his rookie season, the franchise tag and trade option becomes even more likely.

Chiefs Sign Second-Round WR Mecole Hardman

After signing 17 undrafted free agents earlier today, the Chiefs have also inked the majority of their draft class to contracts. The team announced that they have signed four of their six draft picks:

The Chiefs didn’t have a first-rounder, so Hardman was ultimately their first selection. The Georgia product was productive during his junior season, hauling in 35 receptions for 543 yards and second touchdowns. He also contributed on special teams, where he returned 30 combined kicks and punts. Considering the uncertainty of Tyreek Hill, Hardman has an opportunity to emerge as one of Patrick Mahomes‘ preferred targets. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson are currently atop the Chiefs’ depth chart at receiver.

Thompson is another intriguing prospect who could have an opportunity to contribute right away. The Chiefs are currently rostering a three running backs in Damien WilliamsCarlos Hyde and Darrel Williams, meaning the rookie should have a chance to make the roster as a third back.

Following these signings, the Chiefs are left with a pair of unsigned draft picks: second-round safety Juan Thornhill (Virginia) and third-round defensive tackle Khalen Saunders (Western Illinois).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Hardman

During the hours leading up to the draft’s second night, the Jets were calling teams — the Seahawks, Colts and others — about trading way up into the second round. That did not end up happening. The Jets, who traded their Round 2 pick to the Colts last year for the right to move up to draft Sam Darnold, made the calls because of a desire to add one of the high-end cornerbacks available to start Day 2, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. Gang Green sought to jump into the top five of the second round, per Mehta, but they could not come to terms on a deal. Such a jump — from No. 68 into the 30s — would have required a significant draft capital subtraction. The Jets also had a deal with the Eagles to make a less costly move — up to No. 57 — to draft Mecole Hardman, but the Chiefs beat them to it. Corners Byron Murphy, Rock Ya-Sin, Sean Bunting and Trayvon Mullen all went off the board in the first eight picks Friday.

At corner, the Jets have 2018 free agent signing Trumaine Johnson and 2019 addition Brian Poole. As of now, they may be asking Darryl Roberts to be a starter. With no draft picks spent on the position, the Jets may still be on the lookout for help here.

Here is the latest post-draft news from the AFC:

  • The Raiders hoped to trade down from their No. 4 slot, but no calls came, Peter King of NBC Sports notes. Just about every high-end prospect was connected to the Raiders during the pre-draft process, but the team instead went with what most perceived as a bit of a reach in Clelin Ferrell. However, taking the Clemson talent at No. 4 was the team’s backup plan.
  • Joe Flacco‘s work in the early days of the Broncos‘ offseason program dissuaded John Elway from selecting a quarterback at No. 10 overall, something many mock drafts had the Broncos doing. “What made that decision is, Joe is fitting really well with what we want to do offensively, and he looked great in our minicamp last week,” Elway said Thursday, via King. “He really put on a throwing exhibition last week in camp. I truly think we’ve got a guy coming into his prime.” Of course, less than 24 hours later, Drew Lock was a Bronco. Both King and SI.com’s Albert Breer report the Mizzou prospect was the top passer on Denver’s board, with Breer adding that Elway continually brought up Lock in pre-draft meetings, pointing further to the potential value investment at No. 42.
  • As for what would have happened if the Broncos did not receive a strong Steelers offer for No. 10? Denver would have a new starting inside linebacker, with King writing the Broncos would have taken Devin Bush and addressed their offensive needs later.
  • While the Chiefs‘ Hardman pick looks like a Tyreek Hill emergency replacement, and was chosen three rounds ahead of when the polarizing star was taken three years ago, the team views the Georgia speedster as a cross between Hill and gadget-type weapon De’Anthony Thomas — both in terms of role and talent, Breer writes.
  • Of their six 2019 picks, the Jets used one on an offensive lineman — third-round tackle Chuma Edoga. Gang Green entered free agency with plenty of needs up front. While All-Pro Kelechi Osemele is now slotted in as one of the Jets’ first-string guards, Tom Compton represented the team’s only other veteran addition. Although, Jonotthan Harrison re-signed and appears to be a firm option to start, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes. The Jets were eyeing interior lineman Connor McGovern in Round 3, per Vacchiano, but the Cowboys beat them to him. As of now, Harrison — a career part-time starter with the Colts who ended last season as the Jets’ top center — is first in line to snap.

Jets Tried To Trade Up For Mecole Hardman

The Jets did not fortify their wide receiver group in the draft, but that was not by design. The Jets had their eye on Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman, Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter) hears, but the Chiefs beat them to the punch. 

[RELATED: Grading The Jets’ Draft]

Apparently, the Jets were ready to pull the trigger on a trade with the Eagles that would have allowed them to grab Hardman at No. 57 overall, but the Chiefs beat them to the punch by moving up to the No. 56 pick. The Chiefs now have the speedster as a potential replacement for Tyreek Hill, who is expected to be released any moment now. Meanwhile, the Jets are left to sift through what remains of the wide receiver market to find support for Quincy EnunwaRobby Anderson, and Jamison Crowder.

The Jets also explored moving up to the top of the second round to get in on cornerback run, but they found the asking price to be too steep. They eventually took a cornerback in the sixth-round when they plucked oft-injured Rutgers corner Blessuan Austin from about 30 minutes down I-95.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Deal No. 56 Pick To Chiefs

The Chiefs will make their first pick of the 2019 draft, moving up five spots via the Rams. Los Angeles will collect a fifth-round pick (No. 167) to move back five spots at the end of Round 2.

Kansas City’s pick at No. 56 appears to indicate, as should be expected, Tyreek Hill will soon be out of the picture. The Chiefs chose Georgia wideout/return man Mecole Hardman, who zoomed to a 4.33-second 40-yard dash time this offseason.

It has not been a good week for Kansas City, but the team still does feature one of the league’s best rosters. It’s interesting the Chiefs did not use this pick on their defense, which still has holes, but Hill’s latest ugly off-field chapter created a major need at receiver.

Hardman caught 35 passes for 543 yards last season. He will likely be tabbed to develop and possibly step in for one of the NFL’s best players, one who has encountered more legal trouble and is likely soon to be a former Chief.

If/once Hill is waived, it will mark a rather astounding reboot for Kansas City’s offense. Both Hill and Kareem Hunt were integral parts of the Chiefs’ loaded 2018 skill-position corps. Kansas City brought in Carlos Hyde to help stabilize the post-Hunt backfield; Hardman appears to be a key component of the post-Hill equation at wide receiver.