DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension to start the 2022 NFL season could force the Arizona Cardinals back into the wide receiver market. Moves have already been made to keep the position strong, but there is surely room for one more big-play threat on the outside.
Big plays shouldn’t be in short supply after general manager Steve Keim sent a first-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. He was a college teammate of quarterback Kyler Murray at Oklahoma, and Brown will ensure the Cardinals can still stretch the field without Hopkins.
Brown won’t be a direct replacement, though, something the roster still lacks. A.J. Green is back, but he has plenty to prove after a lacklustre first season in Arizona, while 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella could be available for trade.
ALL the latest Cardinals news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cardinals newsletter here!
One solution to the problem involves a former first-round pick of the New England Patriots. He’s been something of a draft bust, but one writer believes this young wideout is capable of taking up Hopkins’ role, at least in the short term.
Patriots’ Failed Experiment a Popular Pick for Cardinals
The Cardinals can offer a new lease of life to N’Keal Harry to help offset the loss of Hopkins, according to PHNX Cardinals podcast host Bo Brack:
It would be a low-key, but potentially high-yield response to Hopkins being suspended for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Brown, second-year playmaker Rondale Moore and Green will pick up some of the slack, although the latter needs to rebound after starting only nine games and scoring just three touchdowns last season.
Aside from Green , Brown and Moore, the other options are unconvincing. They include former practice-squad wideout Antoine Wesley and disappointing Isabella, who remains the subject of trade speculation. Wesley has a mere 19 receptions on his pro CV, 12 fewer than Isabella.
Isabella’s agent, Bradley Blank, revealed back in March he’d been given the nod to “seek a trade.” The Cards are apparently still willing to deal because NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo revealed during the draft how Isabella had been “offered” to “a few teams in recent weeks.”
Harry can probably relate to Isabella’s plight. He’s also failed to live up to his draft status since the Pats selected him 32nd-overall in 2019.
Three seasons have yielded just 57 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns. It’s little wonder the Patriots declined Harry’s fifth-year option recently, per Ari Meirov of Pro Football Focus.
Harry may be on borrowed time in New England, but there are reasons to believe the Cardinals would be interested. For one thing, the Cards were keen on Harry during the 2019 draft, according to Darren Urban of the team’s official site: “if he had still been on the board when the Cardinals had their second-round pick, it wouldn’t have been him.”
Both Urban and Jess Root of Cards Wire felt a seventh-round pick would have been enough to secure a trade for the former Arizona State standout. Ultimately, the Cardinals didn’t send a late-round pick to the Patriots, but a similar choice from next year’s haul could still get a deal done.
Harry Would Add Another Dimension to Cards’ Offense
Even if he is traded to pastures new, Harry will face an uphill battle proving he has what it takes to be a dynamic receiver at this level. Fortunately, he possesses hidden value, specifically, what he brings to a running game.
At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, Harry (#1) has the ideal frame to be an asset as a blocker. It’s a trait the Pats have exploited more than once, like on this play against the Buffalo Bills from last season, relayed by ex-Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham:
The Cardinals lack a wideout physical enough to create similar lanes on the ground. Aligning Harry tight to the formation would be a boost for returning running back James Conner and sixth-round pick Keaontay Ingram.
Of course, nobody acquires a receiver primarily for what he does as a blocker. Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury would also expect notable contributions from Harry in the passing game.
There’s a decent basis for improvement from a big-bodied speedster who averaged 15.33 yards per catch last season. Letting Harry attack vertically more often should unlock his so far dormant potential. Deep patterns figure to be the main means of travel for outside receivers in Kingsbury’s offense, while tight ends Zach Ertz and rookie Trey McBride work the middle and underneath.
Adding Harry to the mix would give Murray a tall target for when he launches the ball long. It would also provide a complement for Green and Brown, who have a heavy burden to carry in Hopkins’ absence.