JASON BROWN: Do the Chiefs need a WR upgrade?
The worst part of the NFL offseason is almost here with the limited excitement provided by optional team activities (OTAs) only to be followed difficult wait for training camp to begin in July. At this point in the year, most teams have all but one – or two – roster spots figured out, meaning there won’t be much news around the league after the Kansas City Chiefs and other teams wrap up their OTAs – unless Aaron Rodgers is actually traded.
OTAs are expected to provide fans with some relief as it has been about a month since anyone from the Chiefs has had a meaningful media session but that excitement passes quickly and the wait for training camp begins.
Head coach Andy Reid told us Patrick Mahomes is recovering fine, praised the early work of recently acquired left tackle Orlando Brown Jr and further reassured fans that the offensive line overhaul is moving in the right direction fast.
Something we didn’t hear much about was the wide receiver group. The Chiefs have two of the best pass-catchers in the league in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce but it has been clear through former wideout Sammy Watkins’ continued injuries that a third threat is necessary to make the most of this offense.
Mecole Hardman should be evolving into that role, so the Chiefs don’t have to strike a deal with a wide receiver, which doesn’t make as much sense financially as getting the most out of Hardman’s rookie contract.
His development last year was streaky at best and while he provides an electric element to this offense, he can’t just be the guy running slants and catching bubble screens. The Chiefs like to develop their speedsters this way, easing them into the system with a limited route tree to make them comfortable. This is what we saw with Hardman in his rookie year and some of his sophomore campaign but there was a point last season where the Chiefs started to need more.
As much as it pains me to say it, Hardman didn’t give fans a lot of hope in his final games. He was solid in the divisional round against Cleveland but a flip switched in the AFC championship and Super Bowl where he notched just four total receptions for eight yards.
A football player’s third year in the NFL is regarded as when athletes usually find their stride so it isn’t unreasonable to think this will be Hardman’s breakout year, but what is more concerning is if he or Hill suffers an injury. That leaves Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle and 2021 fifth-round pick Cornell Powell to fill those snaps.
I know Mahomes can do almost anything but are we really about to ask our half a billion-dollar quarterback to make due when an upgrade might be necessary?
You probably know where this is going but the Atlanta Falcons are almost certainly going to have to trade superstar wide receiver, Julio Jones after he requested a trade and aired his grievances on live TV.
Can the Chiefs afford to trade for Julio Jones? Yes, they can but do they want to part with a high pick in the next two drafts to do so? No, they don’t.
The Falcons want a first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 draft and I doubt they will be getting that but have also noted that a 2023 first-round pick could be a starting point.
I have no problem with trading the 2023 first-round pick for a receiver that would make this team so much better and the absolute favorites to win the Super Bowl.
But I have a feeling Chiefs owner Clark Hunt will not be open to dealing his team’s first selection in the 2023 draft that will be in Kansas City.
So unless Hunt wants to trade his 2023 first now and find a way back into the first round of his organization’s home draft further down the road, I can’t see this trade happening, unless the Falcons drop their asking price.
Until then, it will likely be Hill and Hardman as the team’s starting wide receivers with Robinson and Pringle in reserve. It could be worse but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be difficulties next season.
Jason Brown is the Sports Editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com