A months long staredown between DeAndre Hopkins and the Arizona Cardinals came to an end, with the Cardinals releasing the All-Pro wide receiver on May 26, immediately adding a game-changing weapon to the open market.
There was little chance Hopkins would play in Arizona this season, given that the 30-year-old was set to count $29.9 million against the cap for the 2023 season. Now, Hopkins gets to pick his next destination, and should expect a robust market.
“I wouldn’t rule out the New England Patriots,” a league source told Heavy. “They aren’t out of the question. But, he would be an ideal fit with either of the New York teams.”
Hopkins is coming off a bit of a tumultuous 2022 campaign that saw him suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL‘s performance-enhancing drug policy. However, the 6-foot-1 and 212 pound playmaker still managed to pull down 64 passes for 717 yards with three touchdowns.
“That dude is still legit,” an NFC Personnel Executive told Heavy. “He’s going to be a hot item now that he’s available. Just phenomenal hands, damn good size, and lots of experience. He just needs to prove he can stay healthy, to make signing him worth it.”
Conventional wisdom suggests there should be 31 teams — or at least any team with the requisite cap space to make a marquee addition such as Hopkins, should be on the phone trying to add him to their offense. But, where are Hopkins’ best fits?
DeAndre Hopkins’ Best Fits in Free Agency
New York Jets
If the Jets have shown anything during this offseason, it is that they are all-in on making a run.
After landing Aaron Rodgers in a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers, the Jets could quickly climb the AFC East hierarchy by dropping Hopkins into Rodgers’ supporting cast, alongside veteran Allen Lazard and upstart Garrett Wilson, who caught 83 passes for 1,103 yards with 4 touchdowns as a rookie, last season.
New York currently sits with only $6.38 million in cap space, but Hopkins is the type of player general manager Joe Douglas would do cap gymnastics over trying to acquire. It’s easy to envision Hopkins making a similar impact on the Jets’ Super Bowl chances as A.J. Brown did just down the New Jersey Turnpike in Philadelphia, for the Eagles, last season.
New England Patriots
If the Patriots are serious about keeping pace in the AFC arms race, it would be expected they would put on a full-court press for Hopkins.
Conversations with sources inside the league suggest the Patriots might be the best destination for Hopkins. There is also a video clip that went viral in recent weeks of Bill Belichick seeking Hopkins out prior to a game, and talking up how much he respects him. Now, Belichick has the chance to pick Hopkins up of the free agent scrap heap.
For a franchise with a young quarterback such as Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe, there are few players who could make more of a tangible and significant impact on their development than Hopkins.
New York Giants
The New York Giants are on a mission to continue surrounding Daniel Jones with game-altering weapons.
General manager Joe Schoen traded for All-Pro tight end Darren Waller earlier this offseason, drafted speedy wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, and added steady veteran receiver Parris Campbell in free agency.
Hopkins would be a worthy counter-punch to the Philadelphia Eagles‘ acquisition of A.J. Brown last offseason, and the Dallas Cowboys’ picking up Brandin Cooks this offseason, in an NFC East that looks to be more competitive than ever. Hopkins would add an element of game-breaking speed and big-play ability on the perimeter in Brian Daboll’s scheme, similar to the impact Stefon Diggs made on the Buffalo Bills when he arrived into Daboll’s system.