The Arizona Cardinals pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the NFL offseason, cutting bait with DeAndre Hopkins last Friday. The Arizona franchise announced it had released the star wide receiver after it couldn't find a trade partner for him.
Hopkins officially became a free agent Tuesday.
With the release, Hopkins is free to sign with any team he wants. Hopkins has a cap number of $29,988,890 in 2023 and $25,453,886 in 2024, the final two years of an extension he signed when he was traded to the Cardinals in 2020. Arizona will eat $21,077,776 in dead cap with the Hopkins release, saving $8,911,114 in cap space.
Why didn't the Cardinals designate the Hopkins release as a post-June 1 designation? Per CBS Sports' former agent Joel Corry, Arizona couldn't have used that designations on Hopkins even if they had wanted to. Teams can use only two of them per year, and Arizona had already used theirs on J.J. Watt and Rodney Hudson. If the Cardinals could have used their post-June 1 release, they would have spread out that dead cap over the next two years.
The Cardinals made attempts to trade Hopkins prior to his release, but couldn't find a dancing partner. Per ESPN, Hopkins' $19.45 million base salary was non-guaranteed, but prohibitive to whatever team he ended up with. Odell Beckham's $15 million contract certainly spurred a notion Hopkins wouldn't take a reworked deal for lesser money. Hopkins admitted he didn't want a raise if he was traded to another team.
Hopkins has the eighth-most receiving yards through a player's first 10 seasons in NFL history (11.298) and the fourth-most receptions after a player's first 10 seasons (853). Hopkins averaged 7.1 catches per game (fourth in NFL) and 79.7 receiving yards per game (10th in NFL) despite only playing nine games last season. He's been a first team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his 10 NFL seasons.
"What I want is stable management upstairs," Hopkins said on the I AM ATHLETE podcast earlier this week. "I think that's something I haven't really had the past couple years of my career coming from Houston and then to Arizona.
"I've been through three or four GMs in my career, so a stable management. A QB who loves the game, a QB who brings everybody on board with him and pushes not just himself but everybody around him. And a great defense. A great defense wins championships."
Hopkins will get the chance to seek that out in the coming days.