DeAndre Hopkins’ time in the desert came to an end on Friday. The Cardinals fired the veteran receiver after failing to find a trading partner who could take on the remaining two years and $54 million on a contract extension he signed with Arizona in 2020.
Hopkins is not expected to remain unemployed for long. He’s still been productive on the field in recent seasons. He just hasn’t managed to stay sane with ease.
As such, Hopkins’ new deal will likely include fewer guarantees for the team that eventually signs him than his previous deals. Despite this, he should still be getting a handsome overall salary – if all goes well for him.
Of course, getting fired can be a bit difficult at this point in the off-season. Not every team has enough cap space, so those looking to sign Hopkins may need to take some steps to make cap space.
MORE: Bills and Ravens are among top landing spots for DeAndre Hopkins
And even if they do, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to pay Hopkins the amount he’s aiming for — at least not in a multi-year installment.
However, there are still plenty of other teams who have the leeway to make Hopkins a solid offer. Some of them are on his wish list, but others could throw their hats in the ring as well.
So what will Hopkins’ contract look like and which teams will have the easiest time signing him? Here’s what you should know about the three-time All-Pro’s upcoming free agency.
NFL teams with the largest remaining cap space
According to OverTheCap.com, there are 19 teams with at least $10 million left in 2023. The Bears have the largest remainder in this group at $32.6 million, while the Cowboys have 10.55 million dollars have the lowest remainder in this group.
Below is a look at the teams that have more than $10 million in cap space to spend.
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DeAndre Hopkins’ contract is the best fit
Hopkins is now one of the most well-known players in the NFL’s free agent market, so he’s likely to generate a lot of interest. He may not be the same consistent and top-notch receiver he used to be, but he still has the skills to be a starter as an underdog.
Receivers are in high demand throughout the NFL, so it’s likely that a contender — or a team in need of receivers — will consider signing Hopkins. But which is the easiest to do? Here’s a look at the teams that can sign Hopkins without having to do too much salary cap gymnastics.
The Lions might not seem like the most obvious landing spot for Hopkins, but they have a chance to cause a stir in a weak-looking NFC. However, their offense will be without fast receiver Jameson Williams for at least six games, leaving them with a player to replace him early in the season.
Hopkins would fit the bill and would complement speedy Williams and slot man Amon-Ra St. Brown nicely. That trio would certainly give Jared Goff plenty of targets and quality depth at receiver. So if Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes like what they see from Hopkins, they could go after him and offer him a solid evidence contract.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have a solid collection of role-playing receivers led by DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster. That means they don’t really have a No. 1 winger, so they could seek Hopkins as a long-term, experienced talent paired with Mac Jones.
Hopkins might be counted on to overdo it in New England, but there’s no denying that he would give them advantages they wouldn’t otherwise have in that position. If he stays healthy, he can hit 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns. His presence would give Joens even fewer excuses not to do better than during his disastrous sophomore campaign.
MORE: Why did the Cardinals sign DeAndre Hopkins?
Hopkins recently expressed his desire to play with five NFL quarterbacks during a recent appearance on the I AM ATHLETE podcast. One of those passers was Jalen Hurts, and the Eagles have the most leeway among the teams Hopkins mentioned on this podcast.
The Eagles could use a #3 receiver, too. They don’t have a surefire option working with AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith so Hopkins could be a good fit. He’d probably need to play more on the outside if Brown gets into the slot, but that could add even more momentum to the Eagles’ already great offense.
The Ravens are another team that Hopkins mentioned playing for because he believes in Lamar Jackson’s passing abilities. Like the Eagles, the Ravens have the space they need to easily win Hopkins when needed.
Of course, the Ravens have already signed Odell Beckham Jr. as a free agent while also adding Zay Flowers in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. That may reduce the need to sign Hopkins unless they want to bring Beckham, Flowers or Rashod Bateman (who has recovered from injury) back into action.
So while Baltimore is a potential landing spot for Hopkins, it seems more likely that they will use their leeway to address some of their other issues.
Look, do the Cowboys need receiver help? Not really. They have CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup and were traded to Brandin Cooks in the 2023 offseason. So you look fixed on the position.
However, Gallup has been injured many times in recent years and everyone knows Jerry Jones likes to make flashy signings. As such, the Cowboys might consider Hopkins a quality addition to take the place of Gallup until they are certain the speedster is fully healthy and ready for a bigger workload.
Also, Dallas can afford the luxury of adding Hopkins, and the greater skill level makes them more competitive in the open NFC.
Bills, Chiefs face hurdles to sign DeAndre Hopkins
Of Hopkins’ top contenders, the Chiefs and Bills will have the hardest time signing Hopkins. It’s not that they can’t strike a deal; They just have to work a bit more on the salary cap before signing him.
Kansas City Chiefs
Currently, the Chiefs have the second smallest cap berth in the NFL, according to OverTheCap.com. They only have $652,557 to spend, so they would have to restructure some contracts to make room for Hopkins’ signing.
The easiest path for the Chiefs would be to either fire a player or restructure one of their larger contracts to make room for the cap. Perhaps they could talk to Patrick Mahomes again about changing the terms of his contract. However, he has already converted $12 million of his squad bonus into a contract bonus for 2023, so they may not be willing to change his contract significantly yet again.
As such, the Chiefs could turn their attention to deals by Chris Jones, Travis Kelce, Joe Thuney or Justin Reid to create leeway in their Hopkins pursuit.
The Bills are in slightly better shape than the Chiefs, but only just. Buffalo has the third smallest cap spot in the league at $1,476,561. So while they could at least offer Hopkins a minimum contract with their clearance, unlike the Chiefs, they can’t offer him much more than that.
Like the Chiefs, the Bills have numerous contracts that they could restructure to sign Hopkins. Like Mahomes, Josh Allen has already turned some of his squad bonus into a contract bonus this year to unlock more than $26 million, so the team probably doesn’t want to revise his deal too much given he has a $26 million cap US dollar has only 18.6 million US dollars in 2023.
So expect Buffalo to look at the contracts of Tre’Davious White, Stefon Diggs, Dion Dawkins or Mitch Morse if they want to compete at Hopkins.
MORE: DeAndre Hopkins reveals the five QBs he most wants to play with
Contract projection by DeAndre Hopkins
After all this, what will Hopkins’ new contract look like? Part of that will depend on the demand for his services, another part on how his health is doing after playing just 19 games out of 34 in the last two seasons.
However, Spotrac.com calculates that Hopkins has a projected median annual salary of $23.2 million. Based on their calculations and similar deals with receivers like Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs and Brandin Cooks, they believe Hopkins will get a deal worth about 50% $69.6 million above 3 years.
However, given that we’re in the offseason, it might be difficult for Hopkins to land a multi-year deal with any team. As such, he could choose to sign a one-year “Proof” contract at a fraction of the cost Spotrac is estimating. That would allow him to prove. that he can stay healthy and still has something in the tank.
So don’t be surprised if Hopkins gets a deal similar to Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-year deal. He could get more than the $18 million cap the Ravens granted Beckham, who spent the 2022 season with the NFL while recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture, but still it wouldn’t be shocking if Hopkins ends up with a one-year deal.
It will be interesting to see just how much interest Hopkins has. He should be signed fairly quickly, but if there’s disagreement between him and teams over his value, he could stay in the free agent market a little longer than most anticipate.