The Cleveland Browns are in a good position to land a second top-tier wide receiver for their roster heading into the 2023 campaign.
DeAndre Hopkins, currently of the Arizona Cardinals, has been officially on the trade market for weeks. A previous concern for a team like the Browns was that the three-time All-Pro wideout had a no-trade clause in his contract that afforded him veto power on any deal sending him somewhere he didn’t want to go. However, that is no longer the case.
The NFL has stripped Hopkins of his no-trade clause after he was found to have violated league rules last season, per Joel Corry of CBS Sports.
“The no-trade clause in Hopkins’ contract voided when he was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season because of violating of the league’s performance enhancing substances policy,” Corry wrote on Thursday, February 16.
Browns Face Several Competitors For DeAndre Hopkins on NFL Trade Market
Hopkins has played his entire career in warm-weather climates for the Houston Texans and the Cardinals, which could make the prospect of playing in blustery Cleveland conditions during November and December less attractive. The Browns offense also struggled to find its footing at the end of last season under quarterback Deshaun Watson, which serves as another potential deterrent for a player like Hopkins who is on the wrong side of 30 and looking latch on to a postseason contender.
However, Hopkins also played all three of his All-Pro years with Watson in Houston between 2017-19. Watson started 37 out of 48 games for the Texans during that stretch, earning himself trips to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2018-19. Hopkins knows Watson better than arguably any other player in the league and if he believes the 27-year-old quarterback can return to his pre-suspension form, Hopkins may take a look at an impressive Browns roster and get on board.
Several teams aside from Cleveland have been deemed viable landing spots for Hopkins, such as the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens, per Bleacher Report. Also named in that article were the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, which are Hopkins’ two preferred destinations, per a mid-January report from Arizona Sports.
DeAndre Hopkins Trade Likely to Cost Browns Multiple Draft Picks
Absent his no-trade clause, however, none of that technically matters. Big-name NFL players have been able to wield some power in trade discussions from time to time — namely another All-Pro wide receiver in Davante Adams, who pushed his way from the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders last offseason — though those examples remain few and far between.
What does matter is what kind of offer the Browns can cobble together for a second true No. 1 wideout to pair alongside current top target Amari Cooper.
The Raiders sent the Packers a first-round pick and a second-round pick (No. 22 and No. 53, respectively) in return for Adams. However, Adams was coming off of five straight Pro-Bowl seasons and two consecutive All-Pro campaigns, heading into the ninth year of his career and under the age of 30.
Hopkins will turn 31 in June, hasn’t been an All-Pro since 2019 or a Pro-Bowler since 2020, and had a down year in 2022, making just 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns across nine games played, per Pro Football Reference. He will enter his 11th NFL season next year.
The Cardinals are not likely to draw as much capital in return for Hopkins as the Packers did for Adams, though the absence of a no-trade clause should open up the bidding on Hopkins to more teams, which should, in turn, push his value upward.
Cleveland traded its first-round selections in 2022, 2023 and 2024 in exchange for Watson. However, the team does possess one second-round pick in the upcoming draft, as well as a third-round compensatory selection via the Minnesota Vikings after they hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah last offseason as general manager, and two fourth-round choices.
The Browns could find themselves firmly in the mix for Hopkins if they’re willing to pair a second-round selection with a third- or fourth-round pick in this draft, as well as perhaps a mid-round selection in 2024 if competition dictates that they sweeten the deal.
The other side of the cost equation for Cleveland is Hopkins’ contract. The receiver will cost nearly $57 million against the salary cap over the next two seasons combined, while the Browns sit more than $13.5 million over the cap as of February 17.
Cleveland can mitigate the initial cap hit by restructuring Hopkins’ deal and pushing some of the money off into the future, or by extending him. Hopkins is expected to pursue negotiations on a long-term contract extension with whichever team ultimately trades for him this offseason.