AFC Rival ‘Could Force the Hand of Chiefs’ in DeAndre Hopkins Trade

DeAndre Hopkins

Getty Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2021.

Not too long ago on March 23, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to be ‘out’ on superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The news came via NFL reporter Aaron Wilson and ex-NFL athlete Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones during an episode of “The Pat McAfee Show,” and both agreed KC was no longer a serious suitor for Hopkins — if they ever were in the first place. However, ESPN insider Dan Graziano was less willing to close the door on the Chiefs during a March 30 wrap-up of the NFL League Meeting.

“There are still teams out there looking for receiver help,” Graziano informed, “such as the Chiefs, [Baltimore] Ravens and [New York] Giants, but Hopkins’ salary is giving people pause for now.” Others have linked the AFC rival Buffalo Bills to the Cardinals WR1 — including Wilson and Jones on March 23 — and Bleacher Report writer Kristopher Knox noted that “Buffalo’s reported interest in Hopkins could force the hand of Chiefs general manager Brett Veach” during an article on April 1.

DeAndre Hopkins Trade Cost for Chiefs & Bills Among Others

The Cardinals asking price for Hopkins has changed according to Sports Illustrated NFL insider Albert Breer. On March 27, he detailed: “The Cardinals’ initial ask, to get a second-rounder and another asset for Hopkins, seems to have fallen flat… To try to facilitate something, I’m told Arizona has granted teams permission to talk to Hopkins and his agents.”

This note led Knox to speculate that “if [Veach] isn’t amenable to surrendering a second-round pick, a third-rounder might do the trick.”

With Hopkins now involved in discussions, there’s also a question of where he’d like to play in 2023. For example, Graziano pointed out that “it sounds like the history between Hopkins and new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is an impediment to his landing in New England.” The Dallas Cowboys also made their move at WR, landing Brandin Cooks via trade.

That leaves teams like the Bills, Ravens and Chiefs as potential AFC suitors, but the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson could eliminate Baltimore from going all-in at wide receiver financially.

Buffalo is reportedly interested in adding more depth behind superstar Stefon Diggs and rising star Gabriel Davis, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler among others. That would make their prolific offense more fearsome than ever, hence the ‘forcing Veach’s hand’ comment.

As for KC, Knox called Hopkins a “terrific go-to target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes” in 2023. The Bleacher Report analyst also listed Los Angeles Rams trade candidate Allen Robinson as a backup option for the Chiefs.

DeAndre Hopkins’ Contract Could Be Ultimate Hurdle in Chiefs Trade Rumors

It’s hard to deny there’s a match on paper between the Chiefs and Hopkins — and you have to think the talented wideout would love playing with Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid after a career marred by coaching and QB play — but the financials would be difficult for Kansas City.

“Hopkins is set to count just under $30 million against the Cardinals salary cap this year,” explained Graziano. “They’d save about $9 million and carry about $21 million in dead money this year if they traded him (more savings if they waited until after June 1 to trade him), but the acquiring team would still be taking on $19.45 million in cash and cap for a receiver who turns 31 in June.”

Currently, the Chiefs only have a little over $4.744 million in cap space according to Over the Cap — and that’s before they sign draft picks and fill any other holes that might remain.

Of course, Veach could still get creative and free up more cap space (contract restructures, a backloaded Chris Jones extension, trades or cuts), but would he do that just to blow his entire savings on Hopkins? That’s unclear, but a potential AFC Championship challenger like the Bills making a strong push could inspire KC to reenter the trade market at WR.