DeAndre Hopkins is a free agent for the first time in his career after being released by the Cardinals on Friday. Though many of the 32 NFL teams would love to have his services, only a handful realistically will be in the mix.
On a podcast this week, the All-Pro wide receiver listed five quarterbacks he’d love to play with: Jalen Hurts, Eagles; Lamar Jackson, Ravens; Josh Allen, Bills; Justin Herbert, Chargers; and Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs. There were also reports the Patriots tried to trade for Hopkins earlier this year.
How realistic is Hopkins’ fit with those six teams? Could they find space under the salary cap for a piece to push them over the top? What will Hopkins prioritize in picking a team? Our beat writers discuss.
The Bills checked in on the Hopkins situation earlier in the offseason, but that’s about where it ended. The fit is clear, giving them a legitimate top three in Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and Hopkins. It would be a big swing. But several things have changed since then. The Bills moved up to draft Dalton Kincaid with their first-round pick, with the idea of using him in a potential third-receiver role. They also signed Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield in the offseason and remain optimistic about Khalil Shakir’s future.
Though Hopkins would help, it might curtail the dynamic, unpredictable attack the Bills were going for this offseason. Plus, the Bills’ cap situation went from bad to worse. They have only $1.4 million available and would likely need to do a handful of contract restructures to make it work. GM Brandon Beane has been hesitant to do that too much. If Hopkins wants to sign cheaply, the Bills would likely be more open to the idea. However, never say never when a team is chasing a championship. — Joe Buscaglia
The Chargers do have an open spot remaining on their roster. But they are pretty tight against the cap, and fitting another high-priced receiver into their sheet feels unlikely at this stage. To even consider signing Hopkins, the Chargers would have to structure the deal similar to how the Ravens structured Odell Beckham’s one-year contract, which has four void years. However, taking that route would just create more cap problems for the Chargers next offseason. They are currently $60 million over the cap for 2024, according to OverTheCap.
The Chargers also do not have a lot of flexibility to create more immediate space, as they already restructured four of their biggest contracts — Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack — earlier this offseason.
Financially, it does not make a ton of sense for the Chargers to sign Hopkins. It also does not make a ton of sense from a roster construction standpoint. They just drafted receiver Quentin Johnston with their first-round pick. Signing Hopkins would only take important reps and snaps away from Johnston, a relatively raw prospect who needs that time on the field to develop. — Daniel Popper
The Eagles don’t need DeAndre Hopkins, considering their combination of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith is among the best in the NFL and both command a significant percentage of the target share. Add in the presence of tight end Dallas Goedert, and Hopkins could almost assuredly find a place where he’s higher on the priority list in the offense — and potentially a place that would pay him more. But if Hopkins wants to play with Hurts and desires a high-powered offense that has a legitimate chance of winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles would fit the profile. They also lack high-end depth at the position, with Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus as the Nos. 3 and 4 receivers. What happens if Brown goes down? What happens if Smith goes down?
There’s an element of fantasy football to this conversation, although the Eagles have shown a willingness to take on high-profile veterans who could be chasing rings. Any serious interest would require an understanding of how Hopkins would fit with Brown and Smith, considering they’re building block players in Philadelphia. But when a team is as primed for the Lombardi Trophy as the Eagles, one should never say never about adding available talent. — Zach Berman
The Ravens did their due diligence on Hopkins earlier this offseason and ultimately backed off for myriad reasons, including the Cardinals’ asking price and Baltimore’s tight salary cap situation. Obviously, the former no longer applies. Still, much has changed since the Ravens initially kicked the tires on Hopkins. The Ravens added veteran receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor and drafted Zay Flowers in the first round. Those three joined a pass-catching group that also returns receivers Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay and tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson would be more than happy to make room for Hopkins. However, the Ravens still have limited cap space, and they’ve already pushed a ton of money onto future caps. There are a lot of mouths to feed on their offense as it is. General manager Eric DeCosta loves being in the mix for talented veteran players, but it’s fair to be skeptical that Hopkins fits the Ravens’ mantra of “right player, right price.” — Jeff Zrebiec
The issue for the Chiefs is the lack of money to pay him. The Chiefs entered Friday with just $652,557 in salary-cap space, the second-lowest figure in the league, according to OverTheCap.
The most logical way for the Chiefs to move forward — if they want to jump into the Hopkins sweepstakes — would be to sign superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones to a lucrative contract extension, one that is expected to make him one of the league’s highest-paid defenders. In doing so, the team could create additional salary-cap space for this upcoming season.
If the Chiefs choose not to be aggressive in pursuing Hopkins, which was the outcome with Odell Beckham Jr., the decision would be the latest example from coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach that they believe superstar quarterback Mahomes can continue to help elevate receivers such as Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore. — Nate Taylor
The Patriots were one of the teams that explored trading for Hopkins in March, then didn’t make a meaningful addition to their receiver room during the offseason, effectively just swapping out Jakobi Meyers for JuJu Smith-Schuster. So that group could use the kind of boost Hopkins still provides. We know Bill Belichick has an affinity for Hopkins after the coach lavished praise on the receiver last season, saying, “I think he’s every bit as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against.”
If the Pats are able to land Hopkins, suddenly their receivers could be a strength for an offense that was often stuck in the mud last season. They’d be able to roll out Hopkins as the No. 1 outside receiver with Smith-Schuster in the slot and either DeVante Parker or Tyquan Thornton opposite Hopkins. That could go a long way in helping Mac Jones improve. One of the only potential hiccups in that plan? The Pats have Bill O’Brien as their offensive coordinator, the coach who helped trade Hopkins out of Houston back in 2020. — Chad Graff
(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)