Jets shuffle receivers: Mecole Hardman in, Elijah Moore out, sources say
Jets general manager Joe Douglas added a speedy, explosive receiver on Wednesday, cut ties with another receiver and secured a trade chip that could be used in an Aaron Rodgers’ deal.
Elijah Moore, who requested a trade last year, was traded to the Browns on the same day that the Jets reached an agreement on a one-year contract with former Kansas City receiver Mecole Hardman, league sources said.
The Jets receive the No. 42 pick (second round) in next month’s NFL Draft from the Browns for Moore and the No. 74 (third round) selection, the source said. The Jets now have picks 13, 42 and 43 in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s unlikely they will use all of them.
The extra second-round pick could help finalize a trade with the Packers for Rodgers, who said last week that his “intention” is to play for the Jets.
Moore became expendable after the Jets agreed to terms with Hardman on the one-year deal that could be worth up to $6.5 million.
Hardman is one of the fastest players in the NFL and does a lot of the same things that Moore does. Hardman lines up in the slot and can run sweeps. He’s also effective as a deep threat because of his speed and can be used in the return game.
The Jets also needed a returner after releasing Braxton Berrios, who signed up with the Dolphins.
Moore, a second-round pick in 2021, had a productive rookie year and looked like someone who could be a core receiver for the Jets. A disappointing and disruptive second year made it easier for the Jets to move on from Moore.
Upset about his lack of targets, Moore had a heated verbal exchange with former offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur before an October practice. Robert Saleh sent Moore home, and Moore requested a trade. Saleh didn’t let Moore travel with the team for that week’s game in Denver.
Moore, who led the Jets with six touchdowns as a rookie, caught 37 passes for 446 yards and a touchdown last season. The Jets’ quarterback struggles and the emergence of rookie Garrett Wilson led to Moore’s dip in targets and production.
Hardman will be a good addition to this offense.
A second-round pick in 2019 out of Georgia, Hardman has 151 career receptions for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also rushed 20 times for 125 yards and two TDs. Hardman has career averages of 23.8 yards returning kickoffs and 9.0 yards on punt returns with one touchdown in each.
Hardman only played in eight games last season and one playoff game because of a groin injury that eventually required surgery. He caught 25 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two scores during the season. Hardman sustained the injury in November.
He returned for the AFC Championship Game and caught two passes for 10 yards, but he didn’t play in Kansas City’s Super Bowl win over the Eagles. Hardman had surgery last month.
The Jets’ receiver room is deep, versatile and talented and probably still will undergo more changes.
They signed 6-5 Allen Lazard to a four-year, $44 million last week. Wilson, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, could be even better with Rodgers throwing him passes. The Jets still have Corey Davis and Denzel Mims under contract. Davis could be released or traded to Green Bay in the Rodgers deal.
Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to the Jets and is someone with whom Rodgers wants to play. It’s unclear whether the Hardman acquisition will impact whether the Jets remain in the Beckham conversation.
It was a busy day for Douglas and the Jets. They also signed offensive lineman Trystan Colon and re-signed fullback Nick Bawden on Wednesday.
The 6-3, 313-pound Colon appeared in 20 games, including four starts, the past three years for Baltimore. He played both right guard and center almost equally.
Colon and Wes Schweitzer, who was signed last week, give the Jets depth up front. Schweitzer has started 60 games for the Falcons and Commanders over the past six years and played all five positions on the line — mostly guard, though.
The Jets likely aren’t done rebuilding the offensive line. They want to give Rodgers as much protection as possible.
Schweitzer has played 430 snaps at center, which is a position of need for the Jets. They could be targeting someone more proven, such as former Titans All-Pro center Ben Jones. New Jets offensive line coach Keith Smart held the same position with Tennessee.
Free agent Connor McGovern has been the Jets’ center the past three seasons and he remains unsigned.
Another position the Jets could looking to fill is the tackle spot.
George Fant played left and right tackle in his three seasons as a Jet, but he’s a free agent. The Jets have three tackles returning from injury – Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown and Max Mitchell. Alijah Vera-Tucker, who also is coming back from season-ending triceps surgery, played guard and tackle last season.