The NY Jets signed former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $6.5 million last week. His contract, however, is even more team-friendly than it initially appears.
Hardman has a base value of $4.5 million with an additional $2 million that can be earned in incentives. Not only that but the Jets added four void years to his contract to lower his 2023 cap hit significantly.
Hardman's actual 2023 cap hit is just $1.88 million, per Over the Cap. When you factor in the Jets' release of Braxton Berrios (accounting for his projected cap hit and dead money), the Jets essentially saved roughly $3.2 million in 2023 cap by releasing Berrios and signing Hardman.
The Jets were able to upgrade from Berrios to Hardman and save money in the process. Meanwhile, Berrios' $3.5 million cap hit with the Miami Dolphins in 2023 is nearly double that of Hardman.
Mecole Hardman's contract is very team-friendly for the NY Jets
The reason Hardman's 2023 cap hit is so low is due to the presence of those void years. Adding void years essentially allows teams to spread out a player's prorated bonus. Let's look at Hardman's contract, for example.
Hardman is due a signing bonus of $3 million in his contract. Adding those four void years allows the Jets to spread that $3 million bonus over five years (2023 plus the four void years). That lowers his bonus to just $600,000 in 2023.
This comes with a downside, however. The Jets will still owe Hardman the remainder of his signing bonus after 2023, a figure that amounts to $2.4 million. Since Hardman's contract voids on Feb. 10 of 2024, the Jets will be on the hook for that $2.4 million in dead cap next season.
So, in essence, Hardman counts roughly $1.88 million against the cap in 2023 and will count $2.4 million against the cap in 2024. The Jets can re-sign Hardman before his contract voids, but that dead cap hits stays in place and does not accelerate.
In the simplest of terms, the Jets upgraded from Berrios to Hardman and saved over $3 million in the process. They sacrifice some future dead money, but they still save money in the long run, especially if you consider Berrios' cap hit with the Dolphins in 2023.
This was some savvy cap management by Joe Douglas and the Jets.