It looks like the Chiefs may have to wait a little longer to see the dividends from their recent reacquisition of wide receiver Mecole Hardman as they have officially placed their former second-round pick on injured reserve. The move comes after Hardman reportedly sprained his thumb during the team’s loss to the Eagles last week.
Hardman had parted ways with his former team after signing a one-year free agent deal with the Jets. Despite proving to be a strong contributor in Kansas City over his first four seasons, highlighted by his scoring of 18 touchdowns over that time, Hardman struggled to break through the depth chart in New York.
Unfortunately for Hardman, the fifth-year receiver has continued to struggle to find his role as the Chiefs have retooled their receiving corps. In four games back with his old team, Hardman has only eight catches for 41 yards. Unfortunately for Kansas City, they would still prefer to have him available, especially with wide receiver Kadarius Toney being ruled out of this Sunday’s contest in Las Vegas. Regardless, Hardman will be unavailable for at least the next four weeks.
In addition to placing Hardman on IR, the Chiefs also announced their two practice squad elevations for tomorrow’s clash with the Raiders. Wide receiver Montrell Washington will be called up to try and fill out the receiving corps with the absences of Hardman and Toney. Running back La’Mical Perine will also be called up to fill in for Jerick McKinnon, who has also been ruled out for tomorrow.
SEPTEMBER 6: While Kelce is dealing with significant swelling, Rapoport indicates he suffered a bone bruise. Considering the range of outcomes possible in the wake of this knee injury, the Chiefs appear to have dodged a bullet here.
SEPTEMBER 5, 3:48pm: Kelce remains uncertain to play in Week 1, per Rapoport and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, but this is not believed to be a serious knee injury. The Chiefs plan to wait for the swelling in the injured knee to subside before making a decision. Kelce’s ACL is intact, ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds. While it would not surprise to see the Chiefs exercise caution here given Kelce’s importance to the offense, it does not look like a long-term absence would be in the cards. Indeed, SI.com’s Albert Breer adds it is unlikely Kelce plays Thursday.
1:13pm: After missing nearly his entire rookie season due to a knee injury, Travis Kelce has become one of the NFL’s most durable players. But his status for Week 1 is suddenly in question.
Kelce suffered a hyperextended knee, per Andy Reid, and is not a lock to play in the Chiefs’ season opener. The injury occurred at practice Tuesday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The perennial All-Pro tight end has not missed a game due to injury since his 2013 rookie season.
On a better note for the defending Super Bowl champions, Kadarius Toney is practicing. Reid expects the injury-prone receiver to play against the Lions, ESPN’s Ed Werder tweets. Toney, who has battled a number of maladies since entering the league in 2021, missed several weeks after suffering a torn meniscus minutes into training camp. The Chiefs listed Toney and Kelce as limited practice participants.
Moving into Hall of Fame lock territory since pairing with Patrick Mahomes, Kelce did not truly begin his career until his age-25 season due to undergoing microfracture surgery during his rookie year. Unlike Jadeveon Clowney, who underwent the same procedure a year later, Kelce has not battled knee trouble in the seasons since. He has only missed three regular-season games — two due to Reid sitting starters in season finales, one due to COVID-19 — since returning in time for the 2014 opener.
Going into his age-34 season, Kelce has become one of the NFL’s all-time greats at tight end. He is riding a seven-year streak of 1,000-yard seasons; no other tight end has tallied more than four 1,000-yard years in total. The Chiefs relied on Kelce last season, trading Tyreek Hill and using a cast of lesser wide receivers, and got by in large part due to the receiving tight end’s consistency. Kelce set a new career high with 110 receptions, and his 1,338 yards approached his tight end-record 1,416 from 2020. It would obviously be quite the adjustment for the Chiefs to play without Kelce, considering their receiver makeup.
Toney represents a key part of that receiving group, but the Chiefs may look to limit the shifty wideout. Lower-body injuries have followed Toney from New York to Kansas City. Ankle, quad, oblique and knee trouble has plagued Toney, with an onslaught of hamstring issues – which at one point saw the talented youngster sidelined because of injuries to both legs – impeding his 2022 efforts. While Toney still recovered in time to make key contributions in Super Bowl LVII, his track record has reached the point he might not be able to handle a full receiver workload.
Additionally, the daily Chris Jones update does not bring good news for the Chiefs. Still no progress in negotiations, per Reid. Both Kelce and Jones played all 20 Chiefs contests last season. While Jones has been trending toward missing this game for a bit now, the eighth-year defensive tackle is close to missing a $1.1MM game check.
Aaron Donald skipped Week 1 while holding out in 2017, but he was attached to a rookie contract and the Rams ended up waiving his fines and paying him for the game week missed. The current CBA prevents the Chiefs from waiving the fines Jones incurred for missing training camp; that number has surpassed $2MM. Jones continues to target a deal closer to Donald’s $31.7MM AAV than the D-tackle’s second salary tier. Rumblings about a $28MM-per-year middle ground have surfaced, but Jones remains unsigned.
Leaning into a low-cost setup at their non-Travis Kelce skill-position spots since trading Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs are currently without Kadarius Toney. The 2022 trade acquisition suffered his latest injury came minutes into training camp.
Toney’s recovery should generate attention, as he doubles as an injury-prone player whom the Chiefs want to install as their top wide receiver. The Giants bailed on Toney’s rookie contract after numerous health setbacks over his first two seasons. Ankle, quad, oblique and knee trouble has plagued Toney, with an onslaught of hamstring issues – which at one point saw the talented youngster sidelined because of injuries to both legs – impeding his 2022 efforts. The 2021 first-round pick has missed 15 career games and left a few others early.
As the Chiefs will be without the shifty performer for the next several weeks, they have the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and second-year UDFA Justyn Rossin place as options. Ross, who resided as a high-end prospect early during his Clemson career, missed both the 2020 and ’22 seasons due to major injuries. A neck injury threw his NFL aspirations off track in 2020, and he missed all of last season because of a foot injury.
On the first day of training camp, Kadarius Toneysuffered a knee injury which puts his availability for the beginning of the regular season in doubt. The Chiefs wideout underwent surgery to address the issue, head coach Andy Reid said on Tuesday.
Toney suffered the injury while returning a kick on Sunday before practice began. His resultant procedure was aimed at cleaning up cartilage in his knee, Reid added (Twitter link via Nate Taylor of The Athletic). The news represents the latest in a string of injury setbacks for the 24-year-old, who was acquired via trade last year in a disappointing end to his Giants tenure.
The former first-rounder played only 12 games in New York, battling hamstring issues along the way. Those followed him to Kansas City, and an ankle injury threatened to keep him out of Super Bowl LVII. The Florida product was able to suit up, though, and he played a pivotal role in the championship game. Toney scored one fourth-quarter touchdown and set up another with a long punt return. Now, however, his Week 1 availability is in doubt.
“There’s a chance for the first game,” Reid said when detailing Toney’s situation. “We’ll just have to see how the recovery goes with him. But I mean he’s bound and determined he’s going to be there for the first game. We’ll see how it goes” (h/t ESPN’s Adam Teicher).
The Chiefs lost JuJu Smith-Schusterand Mecole Hardmanto the Patriots and Jets, respectively, during the offseason. That has led to increased expectations for Toney in his first full season in a Kansas City offense known for amplifying the strengths of its pass-catchers (especially those with the kind of speed the latter posses). This week’s setback will limit (if not eliminate) his ability to practice during the summer, however, which could impact his effectiveness upon his return.
This year’s franchise tag deadline passed without the Chiefs re-taggingOrlando Brown Jr. They will take their chances on the market, with the veteran left tackle seemingly unlikely to sign before seeing what else could be out there for him. The defending Super Bowl champions are, however, interested in retaining at least one of their notable free agents.
The plan remains for the Chiefs to re-sign JuJu Smith-Schuster. After making substantial changes to their receiving corps in 2022, the Chiefs want to keep Smith-Schuster in the fold, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. It will take a fairly significant raise to keep Smith-Schuster, though the allure of returning to Kansas City’s Andy Reid– and Patrick Mahomes-led offense will be a factor in the seventh-year receiver’s free agency. Smith-Schuster has said he wants to return to the Chiefs, but after playing on an incentive-laden deal, he will command a nice contract in what will be his third run at free agency.
Although the Chiefs carved out some cap space via the Frank Clark release, they remain a few million over the salary ceiling as of Tuesday afternoon. Teams have until 3pm CT March 15 to move under the 2023 cap. On that note, the Chiefs are viewing Mecole Hardman as a likely departure candidate. They are expecting Hardman’s market to be out of their price range, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Palmer doubles down on that, with the former second-round pick who missed Super Bowl LVII due to injury likely to leave Kansas City (Twitter link).
Hardman, 25 on Sunday, submitted an inconsistent four seasons with the Chiefs. The Pro Bowl return man did, however, eclipse 500 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons as a tertiary Mahomes target. He has totaled 18 touchdowns; three of those came in a Chiefs rout of the 49ers last season. A groin injury that required surgery shelved Hardman shortly after, and although he suited up for the AFC championship game, an aggravation led to a Super Bowl absence and a surgery.
Hardman, however, is not in danger of missing 2023 time, and Fowler adds some teams believe he will do well in free agency. This promises to be a thin market, headlined by the likes of Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers and Odell Beckham Jr., the latter of whom having not played since Super Bowl LVI. The Panthers are believed to be one of the teams interested in Hardman, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carolina traded the now-Chosen Anderson last season but still has D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall under contract. Hardman would make for an intriguing complementary piece in Frank Reich‘s offense.
The Chiefs have big plans for their most recent receiver addition as well. They are viewing Kadarius Toney as a No. 1 wide receiver candidate, Palmer adds. Toney’s substantial injury history clouds that vision. Hence, the Smith-Schuster interest. Marquez Valdes-Scantlingalso remains under contract, and Skyy Moore should be expected to make bigger contributions in 2023. But Toney has a first-round pedigree and often flashes when he gets the ball. He set a Super Bowl punt-return yardage record and scored a walk-in touchdown in the narrow win. The high-variance speedster will also have a full offseason to acclimate in Reid’s offense, pointing his arrow up despite the injury troubles.
Kansas City may also lose safety Juan Thornhill in free agency, Fowler adds. The Chiefs drafted Thornhill in the 2019 second round as well. This is a fairly crowded safety market, but Thornhill has 52 career starts and made steady contributions for two Super Bowl-winning teams. Some teams view him as this class’ No. 2 safety, behind only Jessie Bates. That is high praise considering Jordan Poyer, Vonn Bell, Julian Love, John Johnson and Adrian Amos join Thornhill in free agency. Pro Football Focus rated Thornhill as a top-30 safety in each of the past two seasons.
Circling back to Brown, the Chiefs are taking the chance they will lose a central part of their O-line rebuild. The team brought in Brown, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith in 2021, fortifying an O-line that had a brutal night in Super Bowl LV. Rather than another Brown tag, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the Chiefs want to solidify their long-term tackle spot this offseason (Twitter link). A Brown tag could have tabled matters to 2024 and created a Kirk Cousins-like situation, when a tag — at 144% of his 2023 salary — would have been untenable. Brown leaving this year, however, will make the Chiefs a candidate to draft a tackle or trade for one; this left tackle market is not particularly deep, Donovan Smith‘s Tuesday addition notwithstanding.
The Giants won their first playoff game in 11 years last month, but their wide receiver plan unraveled early in the season. The team’s hopeful top four options at the position going into the season were either injured, traded or nonfactors by the stretch run. As should be expected, outside help will be pursued this offseason.
This year’s wide receiver free agent market is not particularly flashy, which could lead to increased trade buzz. But the Giants should be expected to pick up where they left off with Odell Beckham Jr., Connor Hughes of SNY notes. The team did not view Beckham as being a realistic candidate to help last season, and the former Giant carried unrealistic price demands. This combination scuttled the Giants’ interest, and the other suitors backed off as well. But Beckham will be a factor in free agency.
Assuming Beckham has used the past few months to move closer to 100%, or around 80% of the version he was prior to his second ACL tear, Hughes expects the Giants to be in the mix until the end for a reunion. Beckham, 30, has expressed steady interest in his former team, as tweets during last season’s surprise playoff journey most recently showed, but he may not have the same interest if the Giants move on from both Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley. The two skill-position holdovers from Beckham’s Giants stay are free agency-bound, though the team has shown steady interest in keeping Barkley — so long as such a pursuit does not involve letting Daniel Jones walk.
The Cowboys and Rams are also expected to revisit a Beckham push. Considering this year’s underwhelming market, it will be interesting to see where teams will go to add OBJ. The eight-year veteran was last seen playing a major role in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win, but his second ACL tear crushed his 2022 market. He will join the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, Allen Lazard, DJ Chark and others on this year’s market.
Shepard joins Wan’Dale Robinson as Giants wideouts to have suffered major injuries in 2022 and joins Darius Slayton in being unattached for 2023. The Giants will also cut Kenny Golladay soon; a post-June 1 distinction will create $13.5MM in cap space for Joe Schoen‘s team. Although free agency will be a key avenue for Big Blue to upgrade at this position, its best chance of landing a No. 1-caliber option will be in the draft. It represents a fairly safe bet the Giants will strongly consider a wideout in Round 1, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports notes.
Penciling in a receiver at No. 25 for New York should be a “pretty safe” bet for the Giants, per Vacchiano. Todd McShay’s first mock sends Boston College’s Zay Flowersto the Giants, while Daniel Jeremiah’s second pegs Tennessee’s Jalin Hyattas the ascending team’s pick. This is a less optimal time to enter an offseason with a receiver need. In addition to the maligned free agency crop, the draft does not look to carry the caliber of talent of recent years. This class lacks dominant options, at least going in, Jeremiah offers (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe). The upcoming Combine and pro days will reveal more about this class’ capabilities.
The Giants’ last major receiver draft splash came two years ago, in Kadarius Toney. After the Eagles foiled the Giants’ plans to takeDeVonta Smith, the Dave Gettleman regime settled on Toney. The shifty but incredibly injury-prone player wore out his welcome quickly in the Big Apple, and the Giants traded him to the Chiefs for third- and sixth-round picks. Toney has not stayed healthy in Kansas City, either, but he did score a walk-in touchdown in Super Bowl LVII and set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt return. The Chiefs acquired Toney before the trade deadline, but GM Brett Veach said (via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan) the team discussed him with the Giants during the 2022 offseason.
Toney trade talk emerged briefly in the offseason, before the team shot it down. During that window, however, a Chiefs offer may well have emerged. The Giants held off on doing a trade with the Chiefs at that point, rightly viewing Kansas City picks as being likely to land late in rounds. Presumably, no better offers for the ex-Florida Gator come before the deadline. The Giants ended up landing the last picks in Round 3 and Round 6 (Nos. 100 and 196 overall) in the trade.
Both the Bengals and Chiefs lost wide receivers during the AFC championship game, but the eventual conference champions dealt with more pass-catcher unavailability. The Chiefs finished the game without three of their top four wideouts, with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney sidelined by game’s end.
The Chiefs are unlikely to have their top four each in uniform, but Andy Reid is optimistic Smith-Schuster and Toney will play against the Eagles. However, the 10th-year Chiefs HC added Hardman is unlikely to go (Twitterlinks via ESPN’s Adam Teicher).
Hardman aggravated his pelvis injury during Kansas City’s 23-20 win. The speedster’s return for the AFC decider marked his first action since Week 9. The Chiefs had placed the contract-year wideout on IR but activated him ahead of Week 18. Hardman still was not ready to go after the team’s bye week, and he played 15 offensive snaps against the Bengals.
Neither Smith-Schuster nor Toney practiced Thursday, though Toney was present for the team’s morning walkthrough. Smith-Schuster is battling a knee injury, while Toney’s latest ailment is an ankle issue. Smith-Schuster, who joins Hardman as a contract-year player, only missed one game this season. He led Chiefs wideouts — by a wide margin — with 78 catches for 933 yards. The ex-Steelers staple will command a deal north of the one-year, $3.76MM pact he signed this year. Though, Smith-Schuster boosted his earnings by hitting incentive standards this season.
Toney has been unable to shake the injury issues that contributed to his New York exit. After battling separate hamstring injuries during his final weeks with the Giants, the former first-round pick suffered another hamstring issue during his initial weeks with the Chiefs. Toney, who has missed 16 games during his two-season career, went down after making a first-half cut against Cincinnati. The new Chiefs gadget player logged just four offensive snaps.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling ended the game as the last man standing, and the ex-Packer delivered his best outing as a Chief. Valdes-Scantling totaled a season-high 116 yards against the Bengals, scoring a touchdown for the second straight week. Given Hardman’s likely absence and Toney’s unreliability, the Chiefs will likely need a similar effort from MVS against the Eagles. Valdes-Scantling signed a three-year, $30MM deal with the Chiefs, doing so shortly after the team traded Tyreek Hill (who added a third All-Pro receiving season to his resume this season). Although barely $8MM of that pact was guaranteed, Valdes-Scantling has a good chance of sticking around in Missouri next season.
Regarding the Chiefs’ other injuries, Patrick Mahomes said he did not aggravate his high ankle sprain in the AFC title game. L’Jarius Sneed remains in concussion protocol, but with the bye week, the third-year cornerback has a better shot of being cleared in time for the Super Bowl. Willie Gay‘s early shoulder tests were encouraging, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
DECEMBER 18: Toney will suit up for Kansas City’s Week 15 contest against the Texans, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. The team expects to have Hardman back for its Week 16 tilt with the Seahawks.
DECEMBER 14: The Chiefs have been shorthanded at the receiver position lately, but that could change soon. Mecole Hardmanis returning to practice today, as noted (on Twitter) by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
This opens Hardman’s 21-day window to be activated from IR. A return at some point in the near future would be expected, given the team’s previously stated hope that his time on the sidelines would not extend through the remainder of the regular season. Hardman has been out since Week 9 with an abdominal injury.
The former second-rounder has seen a career-high 53% snap share on offense this season, his fourth with the team. He has once again served as a complimentary pass-catcher within the Chiefs’ league-leading aerial attack, albeit one whose target totals had increased with each passing season. That trend will stop in 2022 due to his missed time, but with four touchdowns, the Georgia alum could have a chance at setting a new watermark from the six he scored as a rookie.
Any further production on offense this season – or, if called upon, on special teams where he first established himself early in his tenure – will of course be noteworthy as Hardman is a pending free agent. His career over the course of his rookie contract has been marked by a lack of a dominant, breakout campaign, but also an ability as a return man and vertical threat.
Hardman should once again step into a rotational role behind free agent signings JuJu Smith-Schusterand Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who have each enjoyed productive seasons in 2022. With trade acquisition Kadarius Toneydealing with a lingering hamstring issue, his availability could remain a question mark down the stretch. Hardman will be a welcomed sight as Kansas City looks to earn the top seed in the AFC while getting healthy on offense.
The Patriots were a talking point in some circles after their Thursday night loss to the Bills. Their passing attack in particular came under fire, but a turnaround this week against Arizona will have to come without their leading receiver.
New England has ruled out Jakobi Meyersfor their upcoming Monday night game as a result of a concussion. The news comes as little surprise, given the fact that the 26-year-old was unable to practice throughout the week as a result of the injury. His absence will be felt by the Patriots, given his team-leading 593 receiving yards this season, to go along with three touchdowns.
Overall, New England ranks 20th in the league with an average of 232 yards per game through the air. The WR position has not been dominant in that production, though, with running back Rhamondre Stevensonand tight end Hunter Henryranking third and fourth, respectively, in receiving yards on the team. Nevertheless, plenty of snaps and targets will be available for the likes of Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourneand Tyquan Thornton as complementary pass-catchers to DeVante Partker.
Here are some other wideout-related injury notes heading into the remaining Week 14 contests:
The Chiefs were hoping to get Kadarius Toneyback in time for this week after he logged three straight limited practices, but the midseason trade acquisition will miss at least one more contest due to his lingering hamstring issue. The former Giants first-rounder showed plenty of potential in his second game in Kansas City (four catches for 57 yards and one touchdown), but he will now be sidelined for his third consecutive game. With Mecole Hardmanstill on IR, the NFC West leaders will again be relatively shorthanded at the position.
The Cardinals will also be undermanned with respect to their pass-catchers when they play on Monday night. Rondale Moorehas been ruled out with a groin injury. The 2021 second-rounder missed Week 12, and was unable to sufficiently heal during the team’s bye week. The news extends the injury issues which have plagued the Purdue alum dating back to his time in college, and will leave Arizona without their slot starter. In more positive news, DeAndre Hopkinswill be available for the Cardinals when they look to find consistency on offense and avoid a three-game losing streak.
Injuries continue to plague wide receiver Mike Williams and the Chargers this 2022 season. After making his way back from a three-week absence, during which he missed two games, Williams left the team’s loss to the Chiefs last week after only six offensive snaps. The setback that took him out early in last week’s game will now officially keep him out for another game as Los Angeles has ruled him out for this week’s matchup against the Cardinals.
In Williams’ absence, the team will likely go with the same wide receiver mixture they did when he left last week. Keenan Allen will lead the receiving corps alongside Josh Palmer and DeAndre Carter while also getting some reserve snaps from Michael Bandy.
It was originally expected that Williams would miss four games, after the initial diagnosis of his high ankle sprain. Counting last week as an absence, this week will be his fourth missed game, hopefully giving him the rest he needs to help the Chargers make a playoff push.
Here are a few other injury updates from around the league, starting with another injured wide receiver in the AFC West:
Second-year receiver Kadarius Toneyhas been ruled out for this week’s matchup against the Rams. Toney suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the team’s win over the Chargers last week. The former first-round pick missed seven games over his rookie season with the Giants, missing five more games due to a Week 2 injury this season before his eventual trade to the Chiefs. This will be Toney’s first missed game as a Chief, a trend that Kansas City fans will hope ends here. The good news is that the team expects JuJu Smith-Schuster to return from a concussion that held him out of last week’s game. Smith-Schuster should start alongside Marquez Valdes-Scantling with Justin Watson and Skyy Moore providing off the bench.
Rams starting defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinsonwill miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn meniscus, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The stout run-defender had really found a home on the Rams’ line alongside Greg Gaines and Aaron Donald but Los Angeles will need to figure things out without him for the rest of the year. Marquise Copeland‘s name was called last week when Robinson left the game in New Orleans. Michael Hoecht is usually the next name off the bench while Bobby Brown III and Jonah Williams each rotate in for short periods, as well. Copeland is expected to take on Robinson’s role for the remainder of the season, though.