The Cardinals appear to be a desert storm all of their own creation and it looks like their star wide DeAndre Hopkins receiver has had enough. His PED suspension in 2022 voided the “no-trade” clause in his contract too so the Cardinals can offload him to the highest bidder. So where could the 29-year-old be playing next season?
The Good News Bears?
Their offence needs either a rebuild or a bit more juice and what better place to start than an experienced receiver with 71 career touchdowns? The “Monsters of the Midway” currently have more cap space than anyone else with $85 million in cap space so they would be able to afford him.
N’Keal Harry and Byron Pringle who only managed to play 18 games between them last season are unrestricted free agents. Dante Pettis is also due to hit free agency but he would be cheaper to re-sign than the other two and he played all 17 games. It would make sense to prioritise re-signing him. Da Bears other two established receivers will be Equanimeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool who would seem a complimentary pair to Hopkins.
If Hopkins wants to spend the latter part of his career playing with a quarterback whose main weapon is his legs and not his arm is another question. Chicago only threw 38% of the time in 2023 (20% less than Arizona did) and were 19th in the league for passing touchdowns. If he’s looking to return to the sort of usage, he saw between 2015 and 2020 he probably won’t want to be in a Luke Getsy offence.
DeAndre the Giant?
Imagine if a Brian Daboll offense with a receiver like Kenny Golladay, but good. That’s exactly what “Big Blue” were crying out for last season. Daboll guided the Giants to the playoffs despite only having one receiver who started more than seven games. Two Giants receivers caught four touchdown passes last season, one of them was signed as a punt returner and the other only arrived in New York on the 2nd of November. No Giants receiver caught more passes than Saquon Barkley in 2022 so if they want to improve their offense the starting point is obvious.
New York currently have $43.8 million in cap space but both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are free agents in March so they’ve got work to do. If Daniel Jones is really looking $45 million a year then they’ll probably cut their losses and focus on Saquon and re-tooling for a new quarterback. If they do have start a mini rebuild the addition of Hopkins alongside Barkley would be a nice foundation to build from.
The lack of a true, established number one receiver on the Giants roster would allow Hopkins to garner the sort of adulation all diva receivers love.
DeAndre Goes to The Texans 2.0
It didn’t end well the last time Hopkins was in Houston, with Hopkins continuing to fire shots at the Texans on social media months after he left. There’s been a big clear out in Houston since they decided to part ways with the receiver though. They’ve fired three coaches since the Hopkins trade and the mysterious Jack Easterby left in October last year too.
What the new Texans hierarchy (including new, rookie coach DeMeco Ryans) do at quarterback will inform Hopkins’ decision. New Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik was the 49ers passing game coordinator before Ryans smuggled him out of California. The 49ers ran one of the most balanced offences in the league last season so that should help whoever ends up at quarterback.
Houston has more than $25.6 million in cap space and only 22 free agents, several of whom will be replaced by cheaper options so they could easily make enough space to afford Hopkins. They also have 11 picks, so they are in a good position to trade for some veteran presences if they are that way inclined.
The Patriots have traditionally struggled to identify talented wideouts under Bill Belichick’s stewardship with Julian Edelman really being their last success in the draft. Edelman was drafted in 2009! By far the best wide receiver the Patriots have acquired in recent times was Ransy Moss and he landed in New England in a trade with the Raiders. The Raiders landed a fourth-round pick, the Patriots ended up with the greatest offensive season in NFL history. That was 14 years ago so it’s probably time for Belichick to admit defeat with drafting receivers and sign a proven talent instead.
The AFC East is as tricky to get out of as the NFC West is though so if Hopkins fancies a season long battle with the Bills, an emerging Dolphins and a Jets team who flashed some promise in 2022 is questionable.
The Patriots have over $29.5 million in cap space at the moment and they only have 18 free agents to negotiate with. Those free agents include wide receivers Jakobi Meyers (the best of their latest picks) and Nelson Agholor, Agholor’s last contract was worth $11 million per year though so it seems unlikely they’ll re-sign him. New (but also old) Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was the Texans head coach and GM when Hopkins was in Houston so he may not fancy a reunion, although those in the know seem to think that Hopkins has no issues with O’Brien.
The Ravens do have more pressing concerns in the offseason, namely Lamar Jackson but one thing their roster has been missing for a while is a dependable receiver. They’ve got plenty of speed in their receiving corps and the ever-reliable Mark Andrews. In total seven receivers caught passes for Baltimore last season but only one of them played more than 15 games. Hopkins has historically been a pretty durable player and despite missing games through injury and suspension in 2022 he still caught more than any Ravens wide receiver did.
Baltimore currently has about $22 million in cap space and only 21 free agents who aren’t called Lamar Jackson but seven of them are over 30. Of those veteran free agents only really, Marcus Peters seems vital to future success as Kyle Fuller’s knee injury means that he won’t be available for the start of next season.
If the Ravens can reach an agreement with Lamar or resolve their quarterback situation without breaking the bank Hopkins appears to be the solution to a problem John Harbaugh has been trying to ignore since Torrey Smith’s left for San Francisco in 2014.
Given that every team in the league could use a receiver who has averaged 1,129.8 yards per season for the last 10 years it’s hard to discount any team from the chase for Hopkins. The Rams have a history of trading away draft capital for star players so it’s difficult to rule them out of this particular race too.
Last season was an injury filled nightmare for Sean McVay’s guys but even before everyone fell apart, they really missed the threat that Odell Beckham had provided during their Super Bowl season. Cooper Kupp only played nine games last season, but he still led the team with 75 receptions. Part of that was due to the Rams having six different players throwing passes for them last season (including Kupp), but they still had a team completion rate of 65%.
The Rams currently need to find over $15 million to become cap compliant for next season but they are the kings of re-signing players and reworking contracts to win now so don’t count them out of the Hopkins race. For his part Hopkins would love to play for a Super Bowl contender who would provide him with an opportunity to beat the Cardinals twice a season too.
Indianapolis has a new coach who benefitted from his team trading for a super star wider receiver before the 2022 season began so he should be extolling the virtues of an aggressive approach to roster building to the Colts front office. They do have Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. but apart from that the offence looks pretty sparse. Nobody caught more than four touchdowns for the Colts in 2022 and Hopkins averages at least 7 a season across his 10 years in the league.
Indianapolis has $5 million in cap space at the moment and just 19 free agents, although after last season’s woeful display how many of them should return is open to debate. If Shane Steichen wants to improve the Colts offence, he’ll need to upgrade a lot of positions but a receiving threat opposite Pittman would be a boon for an ailing unit.