By Jeff Howe, Mike Jones and Doug Haller
The Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, the team announced. Here’s what you need to know:
- Arizona tried to trade Hopkins, league sources say Athleticismbut his contract, injury history, suspension in 2022 and age factored into the teams’ reluctance to strike a deal.
- The 30-year-old skipped the first week of volunteer-organized team activities just months after the Cardinals reportedly sent him to other NFL teams ahead of the 2023 draft.
- On the “I Am Athlete” podcast this week, Hopkins vacillated between talking like he intended to stay with the Cardinals and sounding like he’d like a change of scenery.
- The wide receiver listed Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson as the top five quarterbacks he would like to play with, notably leaving out QB Cardinals Kyler Murray. Hopkins went on to praise Murray as a fierce competitor and his “brother”.
- The Patriots, who previously checked on Hopkins, are more likely to pursue him now that the contract isn’t as tight, league sources say. Financial competition is a factor, but there should be some interest from New England.
AthleticismInstant analysis of:
Where could Hopkins land?
The Bills and Ravens would apparently be ideal landing spots for Hopkins, as prior to his release he had named Allen and Jackson among the quarterbacks he would like to play with.
Both teams are eager to push for a Super Bowl. But the problem is that none of them have much salary cap flexibility. Thus, Hopkins would have to give up the pursuit of the No. 1 wide receiver money. Plus, he’s coming off back-to-back injury-shortened seasons, so no team would be willing to roll the dice and give him a guaranteed deal at big price.
Look for Hopkins’ next contract to be heavy on incentives. At this point in his career, winning means the most to Hopkins, who has been lavishly rewarded over his 10-year career. —Jones
What does his contract look like?
Hopkins, who is expected to earn $19.45 million in 2023 and $15.915 million in 2024, does not have a favorable cap deal. The teams he listed don’t have the financial flexibility to accept a massive contract. Kansas City and Buffalo both have just over a million dollars in cap space right now. Philadelphia, Baltimore and the Chargers each have about $12 million in cap space.
Plus, Baltimore has already committed $15 million to Odell Beckham Jr. That essentially kills the Ravens as an option for Hopkins.
Meanwhile, New England, a team said to have inquired about Hopkins at some point this offseason, has just over $12 million in cap space and a quarterback situation- rear unstable to start.
Hopkins could consider a contract restructuring to lower his cap if it would increase his chances of playing for a contender. —Jones
Assessment of Hopkins’ time in Arizona
In 2020, Hopkins was the NFL star everyone was waiting for in Arizona. Open, defended, whatever, it picked up almost anything that came its way. He finished with 115 catches for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns and a future paired with Murray’s development looked promising. It was not the case.
Hopkins was injured for most of the second half of the 2021 season, his absence was a major factor in Arizona’s downfall. In 2022, he missed the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s drug policy. The organization’s most reliable point guard has become one of the least reliable.
Motivated and healthy, Hopkins remains a dangerous threat. But the Cardinals haven’t seen this guy in a while. When Hopkins appeared on the podcast this week — the same day Arizona launched OTAs — and indirectly slammed Murray, the outcome seemed clear. -Haller
What’s next for the Cardinals?
Arizona fans: get ready. The 2023 season is likely to be difficult. The Cardinals had major questions on the roster to start with, but they lost most of their star power. JJ Watt has retired. Murray is recovering from ACL surgery. Budda Baker asked for a trade or a new contract. Now Hopkins is gone.
While Arizona deserves some criticism for not reaching a deal with Hopkins, there is a (distant) advantage here. Hopkins has a dead cap of $22.6 million for Arizona to absorb, but he’ll be off the books for 2024. Although Arizona hasn’t publicly discussed a rebuild, everything is starting to line up for this season. Only problem: it may take some difficult growing pains to get there. — Haller
Hopkins had 64 receptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last season for Arizona. The five-time Pro Bowler missed Weeks 17 and 18 with a knee injury in addition to his six-game suspension.
The Houston Texans drafted Hopkins in the first round in 2013 against Clemson. He played his first seven seasons in Houston, winning Pro Bowl honors in four of them, before being traded to Arizona in 2020.
(Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)