Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins returned to the limelight this week after being absent from the Arizona Cardinals, hosting team activities but participating in a high-profile event. podcast interview this renewed interest in its future.
The five-time Pro Bowl wideout’s decision to skip the first week of offseason practices comes months after the Cardinals reportedly bought him from other NFL teams ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. Arizona proved fruitless, but Hopkins’ absence this week and an interview in which he shared his picks for the five quarterbacks he’d most like to play (omitting teammate Kyler Murray), only made it worse. fueling speculation that Hopkins could be about to move him.
D-Hop, on @IAMATHLETEpodsaid QB play is important at this point in his career.
“Kyler is a quarterback who likes the game, but he is injured. Right now I’m playing with Colt McCoy – who I love – but who knows? Right now, I don’t currently have a Pro Bowl quarterback.
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) May 22, 2023
The Cardinals are starting over with freshman head coach Jonathan Gannon after four unsuccessful seasons under Kliff Kingsbury. The talented but inconsistent and oft-injured Murray is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee. And Arizona is retooling/rebuilding on the fly after stocking up on future draft picks and looking to offload heavy contracts (Hopkins’ $29.9 million salary cap is the biggest in the league). ‘crew).
Hopkins told the “I Am Athlete” podcast, hosted by former NFL star Brandon Marshall, that he is training in Toronto to ensure he is best positioned for a hard-hitting 11th NFL season. He didn’t call his absence recalcitrant, and Gannon said he wasn’t concerned about Hopkins’ absence during this volunteering period of the offseason program. However, the uncertainty remains in part because of the way Hopkins, in his interview with Marshall, vacillated between speaking as if he intended to stay with the Cardinals and sounding as if he would like a change of scenery.
Whatever the wishes of Hopkins or the Cardinals, the wide receiver might have to stay put for now. League front office executives believe a team is unlikely to pull the trigger on a deal this offseason for a number of reasons, including the terms of Hopkins’ contract, the belief that he wants a new multi-year agreement and salary cap situations. of teams that would match the receiver’s criteria for a desired destination.
Hopkins’ frustrations with the Cardinals are understandable. He wanted stability with Houston and then Arizona, but suffered frequent general manager and head coaching changes.
Hopkins said he would like to play with a “QB who loves the game, a QB who takes everyone on board and pushes not just himself but everyone around him.” An intentional shot at Murray (who is frequently criticized for his lack of maturity and dedication) or not? Hard to say. Hopkins went on to praise Murray as a fierce competitor and his “brother”. But he listed Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson as the top five quarterbacks he would like to play with.
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Hopkins also said he wanted to play for a team with great defense because defense wins championships.
So the overall wish list: great general manager and coach, great quarterback and supporting defense. Welcome to the club.
But here’s the problem.
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. But Hopkins has only played 10 games in 2021 and just nine in 2022, missing six last season through suspension. Teams would object to the idea of committing long-term money to a wide receiver on the wrong side of 30 who has missed time with injuries in each of the past two seasons.
There are teams with more cap space but also unproven quarterback situations. Such teams are no closer to contention than Arizona. Hopkins also told Marshall he didn’t want to play with a young quarterback because at this point in his career he’s in winning mode now.
All of the league insiders above are believing that no Hopkins trade is coming anytime soon. Six front office executives said they heard no conversations about the teams chasing Hopkins. Two predicted Hopkins would likely have to wait until the November trade deadline, when teams could prove more desperate for a move.
And so, as badly as Hopkins wants to win as his top-flight football window begins to shrink, dreams of a trade are apparently just that: a dream. His remaining course of action may involve a patient approach and hope Murray can recover, play at a high level and help the Cardinals exceed expectations in the coming seasons.
(Photo: Norm Hall/Getty Images)