DeAndre Hopkins landing spots: Bills, Chiefs, Lions among best NFL team fits for free-agent receiver
The Arizona Cardinals tossed fresh spice into the free agency stew on Friday with the release of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Turning 31 years old in June, Hopkins is coming off a suspension-abbreviated season in which he caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns in just nine games. A first-round pick of the Houston Texans in the 2013 NFL Draft, Hopkins has enjoyed a highly decorated decade in the NFL, making five Pro Bowls and earning first-team All-Pro honors three times.
So, what’s next for this premium playmaker? Here are seven team fits that make sense.
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I have Buffalo as the favorite in the race for Hopkins because of the team’s status as a contender and continued need for a consistent threat opposite Stefon Diggs. The salary cap — while often proven to be more of an annoyance that can be manipulated than a firm deterrent — could be somewhat of an issue. Buffalo has just $1.5 million in available space right now, according to Over The Cap, but if the Bills truly want to add Hopkins, they can probably find a way to make it work.
In the Bills, Hopkins would have a big-armed quarterback capable of capitalizing on the receivers’ big-play ability. The question is just how many big plays does Hopkins have left in him? After eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving in six of his first eight NFL seasons, he fell short in each of the past two years due to health issues and a suspension. That said, he could find the going much easier playing in an offense that features Diggs — who would draw some of the defensive attention away from Hopkins — and is quarterbacked by Josh Allen. He’d also have to prepare to play in the elements, though, which will be a factor in the crucial late-season games that could decide the AFC East race.
The chance to chase a ring has to be alluring to Hopkins, especially coming off a 4-13 season in Arizona. During an appearance on the I AM ATHLETE podcast published earlier this week, Hopkins said he desires stability more than anything. That’s something he could certainly find in Buffalo.
Because of how quickly they’ve both attracted and added desirable talent in recent years, the Chiefs have earned a default place on these lists. Kansas City could also use a player with Hopkins’ experience in its receiving corps alongside Kadarius Toney and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, with second-year pro Skyy Moore currently filling the WR3 slot.
Cap space would also be a hurdle here, as the Chiefs currently have less than $1 million to work with. But the idea of joining the defending Super Bowl champs — and playing with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes — sure is tantalizing. And when it comes to stability, few franchises have been as stable as Kansas City over the last decade.
All of the ingredients are there to make this dish. We’ll see if money ends up being more of a mountain than a molehill.
Surprise! Free agency proved Detroit is indeed a desirable destination these days, and Hopkins would fit into this roster seamlessly.
With everyone available, the Lions would be looking at a receiving corps featuring Hopkins, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams (after serving his suspension), Marvin Jones and Josh Reynolds. That’s a far cry from the group they played with for most of 2022, and after a productive offensive season with less, the potential would make Lions fans salivate.
A year ago, this would have been a laughable landing spot. But as free-agent signee David Montgomery said this week, Dan Campbell is a coach for whom players want to run through a wall. Hopkins would provide Detroit with an experienced target who could also help guide the team through what Lions fans hope will be a run to the postseason. And as long as Jared Goff can produce at a rate similar to his 2022 output, it would be an ideal pairing.
Lamar Demeatrice Jackson Jr. He’s the reason Baltimore is on this list.
Hopkins recently listed five quarterbacks he’d like to run routes for, and Jackson was included in the group.
“I would be lying to sit here and say it wouldn’t be an honor one day, if my career allows me to play that long, to play with a great guy and a great quarterback like Lamar,” Hopkins said during his appearance on the I AM ATHLETE podcast.
Well, here’s his chance. Oddly enough, for the first time in recent memory, Baltimore appears to be pretty well stocked at the position. The additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and first-round pick Zay Flowers significantly fortified a WR corps that already included Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay. Bringing Hopkins into that room might make it feel a little cramped, especially with pass-catching weapons Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely at tight end. But again, it’s not just any old veteran looking for another contract — it’s a three-time first-team All-Pro.
Whether Hopkins can be that type of player again remains to be seen. But he likes the idea of playing with Jackson, and Baltimore is supposedly opening up its offense under new coordinator Todd Monken. It’s worth considering.
Logically, Hopkins probably doesn’t want to play for a team that isn’t a true threat to win a Super Bowl right now. But there’s something enticing about playing with the No. 1 overall pick who happens to be a Heisman Trophy winner. Bryce Young’s arrival should solve the Panthers’ quarterback conundrum — that’s the hope, at least — and Carolina could use a veteran who can fill the need for a No. 1 receiver.
The Panthers also have plenty of cap space to work with, currently standing second with $27.3 million. Money wouldn’t be an issue, and kicking in a few extra million to sweeten the pot makes sense when it comes to reeling in a big fish.
Yes, I’m including the team that once sent Hopkins to Arizona like a thrift-store donation. Time has passed and faces have changed in Houston — Bill O’Brien is now with New England, eliminating the Patriots from consideration — since the Texans traded him to the Cardinals. Thanks to DeMeco Ryans’ hiring and the top-three selections of quarterback C.J. Stroud and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., there’s a new, hopeful energy in Houston that might coincide perfectly with a Hopkins reunion in a city he still calls home.
That’s likely where this ends when it comes to making sense of it. Houston is still far from joining the contenders in a loaded AFC, and Hopkins doesn’t exactly have a ton of time left in his playing career to be patient. This only works if Houston antes up financially, mends any remaining points of conflict and convinces Hopkins a return home (complete with no state income tax) is the best option for him.
Jerry Jones is going to kick the tires on any notable skill-position player available. It’s just a fact. And after the Cowboys considered multiple options to improve at receiver last year, we should expect a call to be placed to at least gauge interest and availability.
Dallas has $10.6 million in cap space and could find a place for Hopkins, even after adding Brandin Cooks via trade. Playing with Dak Prescott might be intriguing to Hopkins, too. And again, Hopkins has already spoke about how much he enjoys the state of Texas.
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