An intriguing veteran wideout hit the market on Friday, as the Arizona Cardinals three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The soon-to-be 31-year-old was due big money, which made a trade tough. But now, he has the freedom to choose his next team.
Hopkins recently revealed the quarterbacks he would prefer to play with: Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert. The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are considered to be , who likely wants to compete immediately. But is that actually going to happen? Is there a dark horse who maybe has some money that could land Hopkins over the obvious choices? Below, we will explore just that.
Here are five dark-horse contenders who have the cap space and team need to sign Hopkins.
Salary cap figures courtesy of Over The Cap.
The Packers are beginning a new era without Aaron Rodgers. While rivals like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears are on the rise and the Packers are not seen as the kind of contender many believe Hopkins wants to join, maybe Green Bay is a sleeper? The Packers have over $16.5 million in cap space, which ranks No. 6 in the NFL, and Jordan Love would surely benefit from a receiver like Hopkins. You could say the same for this young wide receiving corps headlined by Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
Is Hopkins heading to Green Bay something that is likely? No. But we are here to talk about sleepers. With the kind of available money the Packers have, they could be in the mix.
Hopkins back to the AFC South? The Jaguars are in position to establish themselves as the new kings of the division, but they didn't have an incredible offseason. They lost pass rusher Arden Key and right tackle Jawaan Taylor, plus left tackle Cam Robinson is expected to be suspended for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Calvin Ridley was a solid addition to a wide receiving corps that includes Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, but this is not seen as one of the more elite groups in the NFL. Adding Hopkins would certainly boost this offense -- and team as a whole.
Trevor Lawrence is coming off of a career year, and Doug Pederson will want to keep that mojo going. He could bring in a veteran wideout while pitching him the idea of sweeping the Houston Texans each year he's there. If you were curious, Jacksonville has $12.26 million in cap space, good for No. 13 in the league.
The Browns no longer have a big need at wide receiver with the additions of Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman, but you have to understand the front office is likely doing everything it can to make sure Deshaun Watson's contract doesn't look like a complete joke. He went 3-3 last year while averaging a career-low 183.7 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Reuniting him with Hopkins would be a great idea. Cleveland has just $7 million in cap space (No. 23 in the NFL), but the Browns appear to be a legitimate landing spot for Hopkins.
Legendary head coach Bill Belichick and Hopkins both really like each other. Currently, New England has DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton headlining the wide receiving corps. Not a bad group, but Hopkins would definitely be an upgrade.
The Athletic reported on Friday that thenow that the hurdle that was his contract has been eliminated. Hopkins reuniting with Bill O'Brien would certainly be ... something. But he's not running the show. New England currently has just north of $14 million in cap space, which ranks No. 10 in the league. With the love Belichick has for Hopkins, the Patriots should be included on this list.
"He's got tremendous ball skills, he catches everything, great hands," Belichick told reporters in 2022, via the Cardinals' official website. "He's never covered — even if he's covered, there's a place the ball can be that he can get it, still make the catch. Great coordination on the sidelines, and he doesn't really look it but he's a strong kid. You see him break tackles, he's strong creating separation, yards after contact, extra yards around the goal line or the extra yard for a first down. He's a smart football player, very savvy. His ball skills are at the very elite level with guys I've seen in this league.
"He's up there with whoever the top guys are. Cris Carters of the world and guys like that. He's every bit as good as anybody I've ever coached against."
1. Detroit Lions
The Lions are actually the favorites to win the NFC North this upcoming season, something they haven't done since 1993! This wide receiving corps has a legitimate stud in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a prospective stud in Jameson Williams and a couple of veterans in Josh Reynolds and Marvin Jones Jr. Adding Hopkins would make this one of the most interesting groups in the entire NFL.
Why not go all-in this season? The Lions also have $23.7 million in cap space, which ranks fourth in the NFL. It appears Jared Goff has turned the corner as the Lions quarterback. He went 5-16-1 in his first 22 games with Detroit, but is 7-2 over his last nine games. The organization likes Goff, and should continue to find weapons to surround him with.