Breaking down the 2 chiefs receivers who are free agents after the 2022 season and who is more likely to stay in Kansas City.
Derrik Larsh @dlarsh15 ChiefsFocus @Chiefsfocus
The chiefs will enter the 2022 season with a loaded receiving core a problem any team would love to have so we will look ahead to 2023 where two of the top three receivers are due to be free agents with Mecole Hardman in the final year of his rookie contract and Juju Smith-Shuster on a one year deal.
Both are looking to have big years as Hardman is looking to make a name for himself as a big-time receiver and not just a gadget piece, while JuJu looking to prove his early success in the league wasn’t a fluke. So let’s take a look at their strengths, and weaknesses where they fit in this year, and look ahead to their decisions in the next off-season.
The strengths, weaknesses, and role on the team
During the first 3 seasons of his career Hardman has had a lot of ups and downs being mainly used for Jet sweeps, screens, and the occasional deep pass, he had issues with drops and fumbles that would frustrate most fans and himself during the few appearances he had during the game.
He would also provide sparks when he did get his opportunity but unfortunately always found himself on the outside looking in. Which begged the question if he would ever be a realistic option in this offense or just be someone we see come in for a few specific plays and that’s it.
I think Hartman has a chance to become the next Tyreek Hill for this team, yes I said it and I believe it as they both have similarities in their early careers, both players were used in the return game as well as gadget pieces for the offense, both have tremendous speed and change of direction while Hill did have the edge on being shifty and his hands.
The good news is Hardman is putting in work to improve and be the best he can be, but with Hill gone look for Hardman to step up into a bigger role and thrive into the receiver the chiefs knew he could be.
As JuJu came into the league he came in a great situation similar to Hardman when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team on the cusp of a Superbowl with already play makers that would allow him to just find his niche,
well not only did JuJu find his niche but became a robin to Antonio Brown’s Batman and quickly was turning into one of the leagues rising stars. He is better known as a slot receiver who can play outside and does most of his damage against zone coverage.
He is alert to finding holes in the defense and has reliable hands to catch the ball. When working up the seam, the former second-round pick can elevate and pluck the ball through traffic. After Antonio Brown Left Pittsburgh his career and stats started to trend downward.
Now was this due to a couple of injuries that kept him in and out of games? was it due to an aging quarterback who was losing the ability to throw the ball more than 10 yards?
Or was the once great young start just a flash in the pan whose great years were behind him? I believe that this is a season where we will see a great resurgence from Juju as his strengths compliment Mahomes in his ability to find spots in the defense that Mahomes loves to find and as he doesn’t need to be the number 1 guy every game he can focus on just being himself and playing his own game and not be shoehorned into a role that doesn’t fit his skill set.
Where do they each end up after next year?
Hartman- There is talk if Hardman doesn’t improve after this season it may be the final time we see him as a chief but even if he does under perform this season both he and the chiefs will work something out as he is a great piece to the offense can be used in the return game and overall a great teammate.
This one is a little more tricky as it is a one-year vet minimum deal. If JuJu has the type of season I expect him to have it might be hard to make long-term deal work as teams would be scratching at the door for his services and he will earn a big payday, but hopefully, he loves the city, the team, and the fans to wanna stay in Kansas City long term.
Next off-season will be another interesting session for the chiefs receiver as they have a lot of young talent that is coming up and they will need to make some hard choices my hope is we bring both back but to be realistic it might be one and both will be great options.