The five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver is suddenly the best free agent available heading towards Memorial Day 2023 following his release from the rival Arizona Cardinals on Friday, May 26. But it’s not just salary cap reasons that will make things difficult for the Rams to add “D-Hop.”
The Rams already have a $4 million option who’s proof the team doesn’t need to be pressured to add the All-Pro, who’s also near-identical in stature to Hopkins.
Addition of Possession Receiver Should be Enough to Convince Rams to Avoid Hopkins
With the drafting of Puka Nacua in the fifth round, the Rams addressed their wide receiver need in the 2023 offseason. He’s also already signed to a $4,084,980 rookie deal with nearly $245,000 guaranteed per Over the Cap.
But his overall skillset is another reason why it’s best for the Rams to give the BYU Cougar a chance.
Nacua brings fluid route running in tow from Provo, Utah. He was additionally called a “jet sweep king” by the NFL Network during their draft coverage — which gives the Rams an extra option for designed running plays outside of Cooper Kupp — plus in the absence of Brandon Powell who left via free agency. While Nacua may not have the speed or credentials of Hopkins, he’s capable of bringing a possession target option that Allen Robinson was originally slated to be.
Hopkins, who has a similar build to Nacua at 6-foot-1, 212-pounds, has made his NFL living as a possession type who’s skilled at attacking open space in a defense. While he would benefit greatly next to Kupp, the Rams again took in Nacua with the thought of him filling a need in the aerial attack and one more dimension to the offense.
“Nacua is an athletic wideout lacking the twitch or speed to attack NFL man coverage at a successful rate. However, the ball skills and competitive nature he brings to the field give him a fighting chance to make a roster. He might need to be used as a possession receiver operating from the slot, where his ball-winning and size can work in his favor,” wrote nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein. “He’s sneaky talented with the ball in his hands, so jet-sweep work in the pros could be an option.”
This Rams offense has seen their wide receivers receive handoffs — regardless of Kupp, Powell or Robert Woods in the past. Hopkins has been used as a jet sweep option just four times for 12 yards in his career.
Already, Nacua has gotten off to an early start in winning over his future NFL quarterback Matthew Stafford, who told the L.A. media on Tuesday, May 23:
“Puka has done a nice job. He’s gotten some reps really in all three groups. Every time I look up, he’s running around somewhere. So, he’s done a nice job and made some catches for us.”
Financial Dilemma Also Comes Into Play
No doubt Hopkins would feast on defenses playing for Sean McVay and the Rams. But drafting Nacua follows the Rams’ “remodel” strategy implemented by general manager Les Snead. He gives the Rams a less bank-breaking option to reinvigorate the offense.
Hopkins, meanwhile, is being projected to face a value similar to what former Ram Odell Beckham got with the Baltimore Ravens…somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million or higher. The Rams only have more than $1.7 million in cap space left per OTC, which already places the Rams in a financial dilemma if they were to pursue Hopkins.
It’s not just the Rams who face a financial dilemma if they were to lure in Hopkins. Per NFL insider Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated Saturday, only the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills had “substantive” talks with the Cards about a possible trade for Hopkins, but Hopkins’ contract then the OBJ deal blew it up for both.
To stay on the “remodel” path, it’s best for the Rams to divert from adding Hopkins and allow Nacua a chance to thrive early.