Browns Advised to Trade for $26 Million WR Ahead of Deadline

DeAndre Hopkins, Titans

Getty Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins of the Tennessee Titans.

Analysts have mentioned every unit of the Cleveland Browns offense in trade speculation over the last few weeks and if the team eventually makes a move, it will happen soon.

Dianna Russini of The Athletic reported on October 21 that adding to the wide receiver room and along the offensive line were Cleveland’s two areas of top priority. Further shoulder injury to quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Jerome Ford’s ankle sprain don’t appear to have shifted that paradigm.

As of Friday, October 27, just four days before the NFL’s deadline passes, Tennessee Titans wideout DeAndre Hopkins is on the trade block. Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox suggested that the Browns are among the best fits for Hopkins and should pursue him following this weekend’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

With Tennessee looking like a deadline seller, it’s time for Cleveland to revisit the idea. The Titans signed Hopkins following his release from Arizona, but the move hasn’t made them title contenders.

The 4-2 Browns could be a top AFC contender, but their lackluster passing game (31st in yards) remains a potentially fatal flaw. Watson continues to battle a shoulder injury, but with or without him in the lineup, Cleveland’s offense has been sluggish.

DeAndre Hopkins had Great Success when Previously Paired with Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns and DeAndre Hopkins of the Tennessee Titans embrace. The Browns beat the Titans 27-3.

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns (left) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins of the Tennessee Titans (right) talk following an NFL game in 2023.

Hopkins has been good again this season, despite playing in a subpar offense in Tennessee.

He has caught 27 passes for 376 yards across six games in 2023, putting him on pace for the seventh 1,000-yard campaign of his 11-year NFL career and his first such season since 2020, per Pro Football Reference. Hopkins appeared in only 10 and 9 games, respectively, over the previous two years due to injuries and a suspension from the league for violating its Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) policy.

Analysts linked the Browns to Hopkins during the offseason considering the kind of investment the franchise has recently made in what it hopes will be a Super Bowl roster and because Hopkins has a successful history with Watson. The two started together for 2.5 seasons with the Houston Texans, during which Hopkins earned the last first-team All-Pro honors of his career.

It won’t necessarily be Watson with whom Hopkins is paired if Cleveland pursues him in trade, at least not immediately, as P.J. Walker is set to start this weekend and may start the next several games while Watson rehabilitates his shoulder. Eventually, however, the two would reunite and attempt to carry the Browns’ offense down the stretch and into a playoff run with a legitimate chance of ending in the Super Bowl.

DeAndre Hopkins Can First Complement Amari Cooper, then Replace Him if Necessary

Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns.

Hopkins’ financial asks may have been a non-starter for Cleveland during the offseason, but circumstances have changes since then.

Donovan Peoples-Jones has regressed for the first time in his four-year career and is the one player the Browns may consider trading before the month is out. Elijah Moore has been okay since arriving from the New York Jets, but he hasn’t been the versatile weapon for which Cleveland hoped.

Beyond more need for Hopkins, the Browns have a lot more cap room to sign him after restructuring several of their top players’ contracts in preparation for Watson’s catastrophic cap jump to $64 million in 2024, which he will also carry the following two seasons.

Despite all their work, the Browns are still looking at -$7 million in salary cap space in 2024. However, the team has more than $34.5 million with which to work for the remainder of this year.

Hopkins signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Titans in the offseason. Cleveland can easily absorb his number into its 2023 cap sheet and can manage the nearly $16 million cap number Hopkins will carry in 2024.

Amari Cooper, the franchise’s top receiver the last two seasons, will enter the final year of his contract next year and will cost the Browns $23.8 million to retain. If Cleveland decides to part with Cooper and save nearly $12.5 million in the process, Hopkins represents a cheaper option to take over the No. 1 role.

If not, the two can represent one of the more potent pass-catching duos in the NFL in 2024, just like they can for the remainder of this season if the Browns decide to be aggressive ahead of the trade deadline.

Read More