An intriguing veteran player hit the market on Friday as the Arizona Cardinals released three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The 31-year-old future player owed a lot of money, which made negotiation difficult. But now, he has the freedom to choose his next team.
Hopkins recently revealed the quarterbacks he prefers to play with: Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert. Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are considered two of the favorites to get Hopkins, who probably wants to compete right away. But will this really happen? Is there an underdog who might have some cash that could lead Hopkins to the obvious choices? Below, we’ll explore just that.
Here are five dark horse contenders who have cap space and the team needs to sign Hopkins.
Salary cap figures courtesy of Over The Cap.
The Packers are starting a new era without Aaron Rodgers. While rivals like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears are on the rise and the Packers aren’t seen as the type of prospect many believe Hopkins wants to join, perhaps Green Bay is a sleeper? The Packers have over $16.5 million in cap space, which ranks 6th in the NFL, and Jordan Love would certainly benefit from a receiver like Hopkins. You could say the same for this young reception corps headed by Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
Is Hopkins going to Green Bay something that is likely? No. But we’re here to talk about sleepers. With the kind of cash on hand the Packers have, they could be in the mix.
Hopkins back in AFC South? The Jaguars have what it takes to establish themselves as the new kings of the division, but they haven’t had an amazing offseason. They lost pass rusher Arden Key and right tackle Jawaan Taylor, as well as left tackle Cam Robinson who is expected to be suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Calvin Ridley was a solid addition to a broad receiving corps that includes Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, but this isn’t seen as one of the NFL’s most elite groups. The addition of Hopkins would certainly boost that offense – and the team as a whole.
Trevor Lawrence is coming off a career year, and Doug Pederson will want to keep that mojo going. He could bring in a veteran wideout while pitching the idea of sweeping the Houston Texans every year he was there. If you were curious, Jacksonville has $12.26 million in cap space, good for 13th in the league.
The Browns no longer need a wide receiver with the additions of Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman, but you have to understand that the front office is probably doing everything it can to make sure Deshaun Watson’s contract doesn’t look like a complete joke. He went 3-3 last year, averaging a career-low 183.7 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Reuniting him with Hopkins would be a great idea. Cleveland only has $7 million in cap space (No. 23 in the NFL), but the Browns appear to be a legitimate landing spot for Hopkins.
Legendary coach Bill Belichick and Hopkins really like each other. New England currently has DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton leading the broad receiving corps. Not a bad group, but Hopkins would definitely be an upgrade.
Athletic reported on Friday that the Patriots are more likely to chase Hopkins now that the hurdle that was his contract has been removed. Hopkins’ reunion with Bill O’Brien would certainly be… something. But he’s not running the show. New England currently has just over $14 million in cap space, which ranks 10th in the league. With the love Belichick has for Hopkins, the Patriots should be included on this list.
“He has tremendous ball skills, catches everything, great hands,” Belichick told reporters in 2022 via the Cardinals’ official website. “He’s never covered – even if he’s covered, there’s a place where the ball can be where he can catch it, still make the catch. Great coordination on the wing, and he doesn’t really look it, but he’s a strong boy. You see he breaks tackles, he is strong creating separation, yards on contact, extra yards around the goal line or extra yards for a first down. He is a smart football player, very experienced. His ball skills are at the level of elite with the guys I’ve seen in this league.
“He’s up there with whoever the best are. Cris Carters of the world and guys like that. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever trained against.”
1. Detroit Lions
The Lions are really favorites to win the NFC North this upcoming season, something they haven’t done since 1993! This large body of reception has a legitimate stallion in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a potential stud in Jameson Williams and some seniors in Josh Reynolds and Marvin Jones Jr. Adding Hopkins would make this one of the most interesting groups in the entire NFL.
Why not go all-in this season? The Lions also have $23.7 million in cap space, which ranks fourth in the NFL. It looks like Jared Goff has turned the corner as the Lions quarterback. He went 5-16-1 in his first 22 games with Detroit, but is 7-2 in his last nine games. The organization likes Goff and must continue to find weapons to surround him.