Here are the details of Mecole Hardman’s one-year contract with the New York Jets
We knew Mecole Hardman signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets that was worth up to $6.5 million, but we did not know the full details until today.
According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Hardman’s contract has a base value of $4.5 million. It includes a $3 million signing bonus. There are void years from 2024 to 2027, which lowers Hardman’s 2023 cap hit to $1.9 million. Hardman can make another $2 million via incentives.
Mecole Hardman's 1-year contract with #Jets has a base value of $4.5M, per OTC. Includes $3M signing bonus. Void years: 24-27, which lowers '23 cap charge to $1.9M. Another $2M available with incentives.
Not quite dollar for dollar, but he essentially takes Berrios' salary slot.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 26, 2023
As Cimini points out, Hardman essentially replaces Braxton Berrios’ slot on the Jets’ cap sheet. Berrios was initially due to have a cap hit of $8.2 million this season. The Jets released him to save $5 million in cap space, but they still owe $3.2 million in dead money to Berrios. Using the $5 million in savings, the Jets squeezed in Hardman’s $4.5 million base salary.
So, the Jets basically swapped Berrios for Hardman while saving about $500K in the process.
Hardman is set to replace Berrios not just on the cap sheet, but on the field as well. Over his four years in Kansas City, Hardman thrived on screen passes and jet sweeps, establishing himself as one of the best “gadget” weapons in the game. Berrios was the Jets’ primary gadget weapon over the past three years. Hardman figures to take his place.
But Hardman isn’t merely a Berrios clone. He will bring skills to the Jets’ offense that Berrios did not, which could make him a significant upgrade over Berrios in the same role.
Most notably, Hardman is a far better deep threat than Berrios. For his career, Hardman has snagged 15 deep passes (20+ yards downfield) in 57 games while Berrios has caught only six deep passes in 65 games. That’s nearly three times as many deep receptions per game (0.26 vs. 0.09).
Hardman’s ability to occasionally stretch the field makes him a slightly more multi-faceted player than Berrios, who hardly gave the Jets any production outside of the underneath touches that were schemed up for him. Hardman himself has plenty of work to do on his all-around game, but at the very least, his decent deep-ball skills are still an upgrade for the Jets in comparison to Berrios.
After signing with the Jets, Hardman said he is hoping to prove he can shine in more facets of the offense than just the underneath area:
“I think being in this offense and going forward, I probably can show people a little bit more than just the quick game or the jet sweep and actually showing a little bit more of the route tree, catching the ball in the middle of the field or some out-breaking routes or stuff like that just to show a little bit more of my game.”
Hardman might also take over for Berrios as the Jets’ kickoff returner and punt returner.
This seems like a good value signing by Joe Douglas and the Jets. Hardman has the potential to be an upgrade over Berrios and New York got him at an affordable cost, one that does not outweigh the price they would have paid Berrios anyway. Of course, Hardman could exceed Berrios’ initial cost if he meets his incentives, but in that case, it means Hardman probably had an outstanding season.