Jets think Mecole Hardman leaked game plans before trade to Chiefs

INDIANAPOLIS — The Jets suspect ex-receiver Mecole Hardman, upset over his lack of usage and diminished role, of leaking the team’s offensive game plans before New York faced the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs during the 2023-24 season.

These suspicions first came to light after cornerback Sauce Gardner posted a cryptic message on X, formerly Twitter, which read: “We ain’t (going to) talk about how our offensive game plan got leaked versus the Eagles, (though).”

Gardner then deleted the post. Reserve tight end Kenny Yeboah then shared a similar sentiment regarding Hardman.

In a tweet on Friday, Hardman denied the allegations.

SNY learned Gardner and Yeboah are not alone as the organization validated those beliefs internally. The Jets lost to the Chiefs, 23-20, in Week 4. They beat the Eagles, 20-14 in Week 6. The Jets traded Hardman to the Chiefs on Oct. 15 — three days after the victory over Philadelphia.

Hardman, a second-round pick by the Chiefs in 2019, was among the Jets' most exciting free agent acquisitions a year ago after New York gave him a one-year, $4.5 million deal hoping he’d bring an explosiveness to an offense lacking just that.

Head coach Robert Saleh gushed about him at the owners meeting, describing him as “gas.” The Jets felt he’d be a suped-up version of Braxton Berrios thanks to his “elite field vision with the ball in his hands.” The team penciled Hardman in as their starting slot receiver after trading away Elijah Moore.

Those hopes never materialized. Hardman struggled to pick up the offense in training camp and lost his job to undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson and snaps to veteran Randall Cobb. Hardman caught just one pass for six yards in five games with the Jets before they traded him back to the Chiefs.

Hardman caught 14 passes for 118 yards for Kansas City in the regular season (six games). He caught three passes for 57 yards, including the game-winning touchdown, in the Super Bowl.

The Pivot, a podcast hosted by Ryan Clark, brought Hardman on for an interview recently. In his appearance, which debuted Feb. 27, the receiver took time to criticize the Jets. He ripped into their culture and offensive dysfunction, and said he couldn’t handle their “lies” nor make sense of why he wasn’t used. He admitted to being “so checked out” that he reached out to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and told the two to “come get me.”

“There’s no standard (with the Jets),” Hardman said. “Y’all not doing it right.”

Hardman later went on X to clarify he “never had talks with KC before the trade.” Jets GM Joe Douglas said from the NFL Combine that Hardman’s remarks “resonated” with members of the organization. The Jets are expected to pursue tampering charges, although Douglas stopped short of confirming that in Indianapolis.

The league can dock draft picks and issue fines if a team is found guilty of tampering. NFL rules prevent teams from contacting players or coaches on another team.