DeAndre Hopkins released: These five dark-horse contenders have the cap space and team needs to sign star WR

By | May 26, 2023

An intriguing veteran wideout hit the market Friday, as the Arizona Cardinals released three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The soon-to-be 31-year-old was owed a lot of money, which made a trade tough. But now he has the freedom to choose his next team.

Hopkins recently revealed the quarterbacks he prefers 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 two of the favorites to land Hopkins, who probably want to compete immediately. But will it actually happen? Is there a dark horse that might have some cash 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 the team needs to sign Hopkins.

Salary cap numbers thanks to Over The Cap.

The Packers begin a new era without Aaron Rodgers. While rivals like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears are on the rise and the Packers aren’t seen as the kind of contender many think Hopkins wants to join, might Green Bay be a sleeper? The Packers have over $16.5 million in cap space, which ranks No. 6 in the NFL, and Jordan Love would certainly benefit from a receiver like Hopkins. You can say the same about this young wide receiver corps headlined by Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.

Is Hopkins headed to Green Bay likely? No. But we’re here to talk about sleepers. With the kind of available money the Packers have, they could be in the mix.

Hopkins back to 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 performance-enhancing substance policy. Calvin Ridley was a solid addition to a wide receiver corps that includes Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, but this isn’t viewed as one of the more elite groups in the NFL. Adding Hopkins will certainly boost this offense – and the team as a whole.

Trevor Lawrence is coming off a career year, and Doug Pederson will want to continue that mojo. He could bring in a veteran wideout while pitching him the idea of ​​sweeping the Houston Texans every year he’s there. In case you were curious, Jacksonville has $12.26 million in cap space, good for No. 13 in the league.

The Browns no longer have a huge need at wide receiver with the additions of Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman, but you have to understand that the front office is likely doing everything it can to make sure Deshaun Watson’s contract doesn’t look like a joke. He went 3-3 last year while averaging a career-high 183.7 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Reuniting him with Hopkins would be a good idea. Cleveland only has $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 really like each other. Currently, New England has DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton leading the wide receiver corps. Not a bad group, but Hopkins would definitely be an upgrade.

The Athletic reported Friday that Patriots are more likely to pursue Hopkins now that the obstacle that was his contract has been eliminated. Hopkins’ reunion with Bill O’Brien would certainly be … something. But he doesn’t run 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, good 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 sideline, and he doesn’t look like it, but he’s a strong kid. You see he breaks tackles, he’s strong and creates 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 knowledgeable. His ball skills are absolutely elite with guys I’ve seen in this league.

“He’s up there with whoever the best guys are. The Cris Carters of the world and guys like that. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against.”

1. Detroit Lions

The Lions are actually the favorites to win the NFC North this coming season, something they haven’t done since 1993! This wide receiver corps has a legitimate stud in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a potential stud in Jameson Williams and a pair 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. Jared Goff appears to have 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.

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