It feels like a lifetime ago that Odell Beckham Jr. pushed his way out of Cleveland to escape the prison of mediocrity to which quarterback Baker Mayfield sentenced the wideout for multiple seasons. Beckham went on to win a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams before tearing his ACL and missing the entirety of the 2022 campaign due to complications from that injury.
Then Beckham inked a one-year, $15 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, which includes an extra $3 million in potential incentives, and changed the entire free agent landscape around Hopkins.
Tim Graham of The Athletic reported on June 1 that multiple executives said Hopkins is looking for money in the same range as Beckham received. Four days later, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that Hopkins’ wishes are unlikely to come true.
“I’d be pretty stunned if that sort of deal is out there for Hopkins,” Breer wrote.
DeAndre Hopkins Has Been Better, Healthier Than Odell Beckham Jr. Since 2020
Hopkins subsequently hired agent Kelton Crenshaw of Klutch, who represents several prominent members of the Browns’ roster. That particular move appears to bode well for Cleveland, though no NFL franchise should expect a player with Hopkins’ credentials to forfeit his position on a new contract quickly or easily.
The wideout was scheduled to make nearly $19.5 million with the Arizona Cardinals in 2023 at the age of 31. He hasn’t been a Pro-Bowler since 2020, but in the 19 games he’s played over his past two seasons (2021, 2022) Hopkins produced significantly better numbers than the stats Beckham put up during the 21 games he’s played over his past two seasons (2020, 2021).
Hopkins outpaced his pass-catching counterpart by 39 catches, 433 yards and three touchdowns over those comparative spans. On top of that, Hopkins is just a few months older than Beckham and hasn’t suffered a catastrophic injury recently, as Beckham did in February 2022.
The Ravens paid Beckham what they did because the franchise was starved for a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver and because his addition helped put to bed the tumult between Baltimore and its franchise quarterback, Lamar Jackson. In other words, it was circumstantial. A similar scenario doesn’t appear to exist anywhere for Hopkins this late in the 2023 free agent game.
Cleveland had just north of $14.85 million in salary cap room at its disposal as of June 6 and signing Hopkins to the deal he desires would wipe the black entirely off the Browns’ books.
Odell Beckham’s Contract May Actually Help, Not Hurt Browns’ Chances to Land DeAndre Hopkins
While Beckham has put the Browns in a tough position where signing Hopkins is concerned, he’s done the same thing to several other teams across the league. Ironically, while Beckham can be blamed should Cleveland fail to land Hopkins, Beckham may also be deserving of some of the credit should the five-time All-Pro wideout land with his former teammate and quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“Part of Crenshaw’s job will be giving Hopkins the hard truth about his market, and that where it sits now is about more than just who he’s been as a player — his age, injury/practice history and the time of year it is are all big factors, too,” Breer wrote. “Had Hopkins accepted those truths earlier, my guess is he would probably be on the Chiefs or Bills roster now. At this point, I’d say both those teams would sign him only at a discount.”
With arguably the AFC’s top two contenders out of the game at Hopkins’ current price point, the Browns have the opportunity to swoop in and steal the receiver out from under the rest of the league by offering him an overpay. Cleveland has a recent history of making such moves, as that maneuver is exactly how the franchise ended up with Watson under center.
The Browns are all-in on winning in the Watson window, which as it stands now consists of four more seasons. The duo was more than productive with the Houston Texans between 2017-19, and if Cleveland is serious about adding Hopkins to the roster and money truly isn’t an issue, then perhaps it’s Beckham the Browns will have to thank if Watson and Hopkins team up once again to lead Cleveland on a Super Bowl run.