Browns Back in Mix to Add 3-Time All-Pro Wide Receiver

Deshaun Watson

Getty Images Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns appear set at wide receiver, but the possibility of adding another elite talent at the position presented itself over the weekend.

The chances that the Browns might trade with the Arizona Cardinals for wideout DeAndre Hopkins have been slim to moderate all offseason. However, rumors of reuniting the three-time All-Pro with his former quarterback Deshaun Watson have persisted. The door appeared to close on any potential deal after the Browns executed a trade with the New York Jets for receiver Elijah Moore and signed pass-catcher Marquise Goodwin, but then Sunday happened.

Hopkins took to Twitter on April 16, where he shot down the notion that he is seeking a raise at his next stop, wherever that may be.

“Hopkins doesn’t want a raise -Nuk,” the wide receiver posted, per SB Nation’s Dawgs by Nature, in a since deleted tweet.

Whether he meant he doesn’t want more on a new deal than the nearly $34.4 million in cash he is still owed over the next two years or the $54.5 million for which he actually signed his most recent extension remains unclear. However, if the Browns are able to procure Hopkins on a multiyear deal for less than $20 million a season, it’s a move the front office needs to seriously consider.

Cardinals May Cut Hopkins, Opening Window For Browns

DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals

GettyWide receiver DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals watches from the sidelines during a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at State Farm Stadium on August 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Let’s back up for just a second to provide the appropriate context for Hopkins’ social media post on Sunday.

The Cardinals went public months ago with the information that the wide receiver was available via a trade, but were asking for a second-round pick plus a conditional draft selection in return. There has been little movement on the trade market since then for the wideout who is under contract for two more seasons and carrying a salary cap hit of nearly $31 million in 2023.

With the trade market quiet, the possibility that Arizona cuts Hopkins to save approximately $9 million against its cap has become more prevalent, a development that potentially brings the Browns back into the mix. Should the Cardinals cut Hopkins, the five-time Pro Bowler will be a free agent and able to sign with any team he chooses.

The Browns employ Watson under center, with whom Hopkins had great success when the two were members of the Houston Texans. Cleveland has also shown it is willing to spend in order to compete at a high level over the next four seasons — Watson’s current contract window — and has stacked its roster with talent.

The obstacle to a scenario in which Hopkins signs with the Browns was the notion that the wideout wanted a raise with his next team. However, Hopkins just nixed those rumors by his own hand, which changes the paradigm for every interested franchise.

Hopkins, Cooper Duo Makes Browns Top NFL Offense

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns makes a catch during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Adding Hopkins to the mix in Cleveland would make the Browns’ offense almost unstoppable, at least on paper, assuming Watson returns to his pre-suspension Pro-Bowl form.

Hopkins would start alongside wideout Amari Cooper, who is coming off a 78-catch season for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns. Hopkins made 64 grabs for 717 yards and three touchdowns in 2022, per Pro Football Reference, but played in only nine games — mostly due to a six-game  performance-enhancing drug (PED) suspension handed down by the league office to start the year.

With Watson under center and paired in the backfield with four-time Pro-Bowl running back Nick Chubb behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines, Cleveland’s group would be formidable to say the least — and that is without taking into account the Browns’ talented tight end David Njoku.

The Cardinals still need to cut Hopkins, who would then still need to express real interest in joining the Browns, who would then need to offer the receiver a salary commensurate with what he’s set to make over the next couple of years. That is a lot of dominoes to fall and the last one won’t be easy to topple even if Hopkins truly isn’t seeking a raise. Cleveland currently has less than $7.8 million in salary cap space, some of which must be allocated to signing their 2023 draft class.

All that said, the Browns were almost completely out of the running for Hopkins a week and a half ago, though hope now persists that he could don the brown and orange come the season’s kickoff in September.

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