Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Rams are ‘fascinating landing spot’ for Super Bowl winner WR: Analyst

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Prior to an offseason, the Los Angeles Rams were part of a broad receiver market that has forever changed the NFL. As high-profile names like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Deebo Samuel and even Cooper Kupp got blockbuster deals or extensions, the Rams also scored Allen Robinson in a free hand.

Could the Rams make another splash this offseason? Clutch Points’ Karl Rasmussen has pointed out who he thinks is a #1 early offseason target for LA: 2019 Pro Bowler and Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl champion Mecole Hardman, who is an unrestricted free agent for the upcoming cycle is.

“If Mecole Hardman doesn’t return to the Chiefs, the Rams could be an intriguing landing spot for the lightning-fast wideout,” Rasmussen wrote in his Monday, Jan. 16 article.

Hardman added speed to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in their run to the 2019 Vince Lombardi Trophy. While catching just 26 passes for 538 yards and scoring six touchdowns, he added 704 kick return yards and averaged 26.1 yards per return as a specialist, earning him his Pro Bowl honors.

The former Georgia second-round player had a steady rise in receptions and yards over the next two seasons — 41 catches for 560 yards in 2020, then 59 grabs for 693 yards in 2021. He started in eight games in both seasons. Hardman was also one of the Chiefs to score in the epic AFC Divisional contest against the Buffalo Bills, which KC won in overtime.

However, he noticed a drop in playing time last season, which could hint at his potential exit given it’s his contract year.

“Strong man [was] only played in eight games for the Chiefs in 2022 and could hit unrestricted free agency this offseason,” Rasmussen said.

Additionally, Hardman started in just five contests for the Chiefs and finished with career lows in receptions at 25 and yards at 297 while scoring twice, including on this Mahomes red-zone scoop pass:

Hardman is in the final season of his rookie deal and earned $3,911,000 in base salary per Spotrac this season.

Once training camp begins, the Rams should have their WR1s and WR2s in full strength after missing the rest of their 2022 with ankle and foot ailments, respectively. But adding a receiver that once fired his 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds could lure in the Rams’ Sean McVay-led offense — and make Hardman the guy to blow off defense.

“While the Rams will bring back Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson next year, adding the speed and deep threat that defines Hardman could open up the offense for LA,” Rasmussen said. “Robinson barely found a footing in Los Angeles in his debut season with the Rams. Adding Hardman alongside him, Kupp and Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Higbee could help all of the above players look better on offense.

The Rams also face the threat of losing versatile receiver/returner Brandon Powell, who is an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Hardman could become what DeSean Jackson could have been as the Rams lured into the aging wideout in 2021 if the Rams take a chance on the upcoming Chiefs UFA.

“Hardman had a career-low 25 receptions in 2022, but he has consistently shown the difference he can make on KC’s offense,” Rasmussen said. “Adding an explosive weapon like him in Los Angeles could help boost an offense that’s only 18.1 points per game and ranked 27th in the NFL.”

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