DeAndre Hopkins’ time with the Arizona Cardinals is over.
However, it happened in a way that few expected.
Rather than being traded to another team by the Cardinals, Hopkins was released immediately. This gives the star receiver a chance to decide where to play next.
And there shouldn’t be a shortage of applicants for his services.
MORE: Where Kyler Murray ranks among the highest-paid NFL quarterbacks for 2023
Hopkins is a three-time All-Pro who’s had a rough time in his last two seasons in Arizona. After missing just one game in his first eight seasons, Hopkins has only appeared in 19 games in the last two seasons due to numerous injuries and a six-game suspension.
Hopkins was still productive when he was on the field. In the 19 games that the soon to be 31-year-old played, he had 106 catches, 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns. As such, he can still be a strong starting receiver – provided he can stay on the field.
And that’s especially true if Hopkins has an elite quarterback to work with in the 2023 offseason. by Albert Breer There’s a good chance that will happen, given that the Bills and Chiefs had the most intense discussions before Hopkins’ release. The treaty was a hindrance there and obviously isn’t anymore.
So where might Hopkins end up? Here’s a look at the top contenders for his skill set as he’s becoming one of the most desirable free agents at this point in the free agent cycle.
MORE: DeAndre Hopkins reveals the five QBs he most wants to play with
Landing sites by DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins to the Bills appears to have a good chance. Buffalo has two good receivers in Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, but they don’t have much else at the position. Sure, the team has two talented tight ends in Dawson Knox and first-round pick Dalton Kincaid, but they could use a third wide-out to take the pressure off Diggs and Davis.
Hopkins would qualify. He could act as a starter on the outside, allowing the Bills to move their receivers to exploit defensive imbalances. That could see Diggs play more in the slot in three sets, but given the help the 6-1, 212-pound Hopkins would offer in the red zone, it would be worth it.
It also helps that during a recent appearance on the I AM ATHLETE podcast, Hopkins expressed a desire to play with Josh Allen.
“He reminds me of Andrew Luck of a new school,” Hopkins said of Allen.
So if Buffalo is interested, we know Hopkins is, too. Perhaps the terms of the treaty would then become an obstacle, but it seems more likely that the two sides can find common ground unless the bills are content to see how their two-tight-end offensive progresses in the year 2023 can work.
Don’t think about the Eagles as a potential landing spot for Hopkins. Philadelphia has arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL in AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, but they don’t have much else. Olamide Zaccheaus and Quez Watkins are currently battling for the No. 3 receiver position, but Hopkins could secure that position immediately if signed by the Eagles.
Hopkins expressed his interest in playing with Jalen Hurts during the aforementioned podcast, so it certainly seems like he’s considering joining the Eagles. Finally, the Eagles are considered one of the strongest teams in a weak NFC, so Hopkins may see Philadelphia as the team that offers him the best chance of winning the title.
In any case, the Philadelphia fit is similar to Buffalo; Brown may need to play a little more in this slot than before, but adding Hopkins to the roster would be worth it.
MORE: Cap situations breakdown for DeAndre Hopkins worshipers
Kansas City Chiefs
It’s no surprise that Hopkins was intrigued by the opportunity to star with Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have won two of the last four Super Bowls, and Mahomes has been named MVP twice. The team’s receiving squad is also relatively green, as the team lost to Tyreek Hill and JuJu Smith-Schuster in back-to-back offseasons.
Hopkins would provide Kansas City with a true No. 1 receiver and a nice addition to the seedy, versatile Kadarius Toney. And chances are, if Hopkins stays healthy, he’ll be a big producer at Kansas City.
So will Andy Reid and company go after Hopkins? It’s impossible to say for sure, but they seem like perhaps the most sensible landing spot for the man they call “Nuk”. Expect Brett Veach to find a way to make that deal happen.
The Ravens are the latest of the five teams Hopkins mentioned during his podcast appearance that he might be interested in playing for. The other is the Chargers, who already have a four-at-receiver and probably won’t be looking at Hopkins.
Anyway, Hopkins likes the Ravens because he believes in Lamar Jackson’s passing ability. Jackson won the MVP title in 2019, so it’s easy to see why Hopkins would like that. The team could also use another proven receiver to expand their core, which includes rookie Zay Flowers and veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman.
With Beckham in the roster as an injury-prone veteran, the Ravens may consider adding Hopkins as a redundant move. But if the Ravens are concerned about their playing strength or want to ease one of their starters since Bateman and Beckham have recovered from injuries and Flowers is an undersized rookie, going after Hopkins would be a good idea.
New York Giants
Now for the teams Hopkins didn’t mention. Among these teams, the Giants stand out. The team added receivers Parris Campbell and rookie Jalin Hyatt to a bad receiver team last year, but they still don’t have a proven #1 receiver.
Hopkins would be just the thing. He could be the team’s best option on the outside and help draw some attention away from the team’s top tight end Darren Waller. That would also allow Isaiah Hodgins, Campbell and Hyatt to slip into their more natural roles as No. 2 receiver, slot receiver and backup for speed threats in the 2023 season.
If Hopkins does indeed want a high number of passes, this is probably one of the best places to look. He would fill the Giants’ great need and Brian Daboll would ensure that both Hopkins and Walker are adequately supplied.
MORE: A look at the Cardinals’ depth chart without DeAndre Hopkins
New England Patriots
The Patriots have focused many resources on tight end in recent seasons, but they also signed JuJu Smith-Schuster as free agency. However, his acquisition was more about replacing Jakobi Meyers after the latter signed with the Raiders, leaving room for another potential outside starter in New England.
Hopkins could fill the gap there and give Mac Jones a true No. 1 receiver. In fact, his starting tandem receiving guns — Hopkins, DeVante Parker and Smith-Schuster — would look reasonably good, especially considering the team has Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki on the tight end.
Bill Belichick has shown a penchant for adding experienced receivers – and players in general – after their releases in the past. This would be his latest experiment that could ultimately increase the Patriots’ chances of competing in the heavily-staffed AFC.
The Lions might seem like an odd place to land, but listen to me. Detroit has the resources to be among the best teams in the NFC next season, which should make them an attractive landing spot for Hopkins.
As for Detroit’s potential interest in Hopkins, it ties into Jameson Williams’ six-game suspension earlier in the season.
Williams was banned for violating NFL gambling guidelines, so he’ll have to take a break for a while. If he’s out of action, the Lions will be a bit short at receiver since DJ Chark left the team in the offseason. Hopkins would be a more than capable replacement for Williams as an outside starter and could continue to compete with Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown after the return of the Alabama product.
Detroit has decent receiver depth in the roster with veteran Marvin Jones and former Rams winger Josh Reynolds. But extra depth at receiver certainly couldn’t hurt them and would help them avoid falling victim to the regression of Jones, who turned 33 in March.