Browns Urged to Make Run at 5-Time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver

Kevin Stefanski, Browns

Getty Head Coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns looks on during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2023.

The Cleveland Browns have gone for broke for more than a year, and there’s no reason to stop now with one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers up for grabs.

The Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, May 26, after they were unable to find a team to trade for him. On Saturday, Mary Kay Cabot of suggested the Browns make a run at Hopkins in an attempt to pair him with former Houston Texans teammate Deshaun Watson.

“The Browns should pursue DeAndre Hopkins and try to supply Deshaun Watson with one of the best receivers in the NFL if they can swing it financially,” Cabot wrote. “It’s not often that a team has a chance to land a five-time Pro Bowl player, especially an elite receiver who has excellent chemistry with Watson and can help put the Browns over the top this season.”

“With the Browns demonstrating that they’re all in on a Super Bowl this season, the addition of Hopkins at the right price makes sense,” she continued. “He’d also go a long way toward returning Watson to his Pro-Bowl level.”

Browns a ‘Wild Card’ Contender to Sign DeAndre Hopkins

DeAndre Hopkins

GettyFormer Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins became a free agent in May 2023.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Saturday that the Browns are a “wildcard” contender to land Hopkins this summer, though not among the top-five favorites.

“Hopkins has preexisting chemistry with Deshaun Watson — they played together in Houston from 2017 to 2019 — and pairing him with Amari Cooper would deepen the intrigue in the AFC North,” Fowler wrote. “Cleveland [general manager] Andrew Berry has been very aggressive this offseason in bolstering the defense, and signing Hopkins would be a nod to maximizing Watson’s window.”

Hopkins hauled in 315 catches for 4,115 yards and 31 touchdowns during his three-year run with Watson in Houston, per Pro Football Reference, earning first-team All-Pro nods in each campaign.

“There’s no denying the chemistry between the two,” Cabot wrote on Saturday, “and that’s something Watson sorely needs in his first full season with the Browns.”

Fowler also appeared on a Sunday edition of ESPN’s SportsCenter, during which he called the Browns a “dark horse” candidate to land Hopkins, per Dov Kleiman of BroBible. Fowler added during his SportsCenter hit that he “senses” the wide receiver would be open to a reunion with Watson in Cleveland.

The opening betting odds on Saturday listed the Browns at +3000 to sign Hopkins, which tied them for 13th with several other franchises, per DraftKings.

DeAndre Hopkins Won’t Come Cheap for Cleveland Browns

DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals

GettyWide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, watches from the sidelines during a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in August 2021.

Cleveland already has a few of the things that Hopkins is looking for in a new team — a quarterback with Pro-Bowl potential, a solid defense with either stars or budding stars at every level and a legitimate chance to make deep playoff runs in 2023 and beyond should everything gel together.

But a handful of other franchises can offer the wideout the same things, meaning the one factor left capable of moving the needle is money.

The Browns broke the bank to bring in Watson, luring him away from the likes of the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons with a massive $230 million contract that is fully guaranteed. If Cleveland wants Hopkins, it will probably need to make a similar play.

As of Sunday, the Browns had just shy of $7 million in salary cap space available. Hopkins was scheduled to earn a base salary of $19.45 million next season in Arizona and while he said publicly he wouldn’t demand a raise with a new team, it is unlikely the soon-to-be 31-year-old superstar is looking to take much of a pay cut, either.

The Baltimore Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year deal worth $15 million earlier this offseason after the wideout missed the entirety of 2022 with a torn ACL. Beckham will also turn 31 this year and has had a rougher run over the past five seasons than has Hopkins in terms of health, on-field production and off-field accolades.

Earning more money than Beckham annually is a safe bet on the kind of baseline that Hopkins will be seeking in a new, multiyear contract with whichever team ultimately signs him. If the Browns are willing to push the $20 million annual figure over something like three years, they should vault into the list of serious contenders for Hopkins’ services next season.

The question Cleveland must ask itself is whether that kind of investment is actually worth it.

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