We have entered the second phase of free agency in the NFL. The first wave of moves is in the rearview mirror, and now teams are starting to fill out their rosters ahead of the NFL draft.
However, there are still some very talented players available, both in free agency, and through potential trades. Perhaps the biggest name out there is that of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. A potential trade for the veteran receiver has been discussed throughout the offseason, and according to a recent report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, trade talks are “ramping up” among potentially interested teams?
Of course, as noted by Rapoport given Hopkins’ contract, there are financial considerations.
Still, he is one of the top receivers in the league, so there should be interest, even if the market is hampered by the size of his deal.
What teams could be in the mix for his services? Here are the top contenders.
Having traded out of the first-overall selection, the Bears are making a push to build around Justin Fields, at least for the 2023 season. Adding wide receiver D.J. Moore is part of that push, but the Bears could still benefit from a receiver like Hopkins. Hopkins’ ability to adjust to off-target throws, and make tough catches in traffic/against contact like this one against the Minnesota Vikings, is huge for a young quarterback like Fields:
Right now, the Atlanta Falcons’ starting wide receivers are Drake London, Mack Hollins, and Josh Ali, according to Ourlads.
Perhaps an addition is in order.
There might be some overlap in play styles between London and Hopkins — and frankly tight end Kyle Pitts, who often aligns outside and plays like a big WR — but similar to the discussion around Fields and the Bears, Hopkins offers a nice security blanket to a young, developing quarterback in Desmond Ridder.
Also similar to the Bears? Atlanta has the cap space for such a move.
New England Patriots fans have been clamoring for an addition to the wide receiver room for a while now.
The team has added pass catchers, in JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki, who operates are more of a big slot receiver. But New England also lost Jakobi Meyers in free agency, and traded Jonnu Smith to the Falcons.
And while Mac Jones is entering his third year, much like Fields there are still questions about whether he is the long-term answer in New England. The team hired Bill O’Brien as their offensive coordinator this offseason, hoping to create some stability around the third-year passer, but Hopkins again offers that kind of ball-winning mentality that would be huge for Jones’ development.
Of course, that would mean a reunion between Hopkins and the man who traded him to Arizona in the first place, but perhaps O’Brien and the receiver can let the past stay in the past …
We are still waiting on how the Lamar Jackson situation will play out in Baltimore. Will he return to the Ravens with a new deal? Play under the franchise tag? Or will a team swoop in and sign the former league MVP to an offer sheet, that the Ravens decline to match?
Given that the game of quarterback musical chairs seems to be winding down, there might be more momentum behind Jackson returning to Baltimore.
Adding Hopkins via a trade could perhaps sweeten the deal.
With Adam Thielen moving to the NFC South, there is room for an addition to the receiver room in Minnesota.
There is not question that this is Justin Jefferson’s show, as he led the league in receiving yards, receptions, and secured Offensive Player of the Year honors. But without Thielen, there is room for another option across from Jefferson. K.J. Osborn has been a solid option for the Vikings the past two years, but is he enough?
With the attention Jefferson draws from opposing secondaries, Minnesota needs a receiver who can consistently take advantage of the subsequent one-on-one matchups, and Hopkins is that kind of receiver.
The biggest hurdle might be Minnesota’s cap situation. But if general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can make the numbers work, Hopkins could be a great fit with the Vikings.
Now here’s a thought.
Chemistry between quarterback and receiver is a huge part of offensive success. In fact, here is a big piece I wrote about the idea over a year ago, for more on the theme of trust between a QB and a WR.
A move to Cleveland would reunite Hopkins with Deshaun Watson, and there might not be a better example of a QB having trust in a receiver than the early stages of Watson’s NFL career. If you think back to his first NFL start, a Thursday night game in Cincinnati against the Bengals, it was clear who Watson trusted the most.
Very clear, as Watson kept targeting Hopkins on curls and out routes over and over again:
Cleveland has Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones on the roster, as well as options such as David Bell, Anthony Schwartz, Jakeem Grant and Jaelon Darden behind them. But an 11-personnel package of Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and Hopkins would be tough on opposing secondaries.
Could the Bills get in on a move for Hopkins?
Coming into the offseason, finding a running mate for Stefon Diggs seemed to be one of the items on general manager Brandon Beane’s to-do list. Unfortunately, that list had other items, such as the pending free agency decisions over linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer, as well as managing the team’s position regarding the salary cap.
Edmunds is now in Chicago having signed with the Bears, but Poyer is back with a new deal, and the team is now in a better financial picture, thanks to restructured deals for Josh Allen and Von Miller.
Now perhaps Beane can take a look at that receiver room.
The team released Isaiah McKenzie, and while they added Trent Sherfield, adding another receiver still seems like a smart move. Khalil Shakir could be a strong option for them out of the slot, and maybe the Bills get the big Gabe Davis breakout season fans have been hoping for, but putting Hopkins across from Stefon Diggs would provide an immediate boost to Buffalo’s offense.
Could Hopkins go back to where it all started?
The Texans added one wide receiver this offseason, signing Robert Woods in free agency. But they just traded another, moving Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys.
The team is also expected to see John Metchie III return. The former Alabama wide receiver missed his entire rookie season after being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia last summer.
So the Texans do have options in the receiver room, but given that Houston is going to add a rookie quarterback with the second-overall selection, surrounding that rookie with talent might be a wise investment for general manager Nick Caserio.
And after all, Hopkins helped one rookie QB already in Watson. Could he do the same for a second, back where his NFL career began?