After months of speculation the DeAndre Hopkins saga is over. On Friday the Arizona Cardinals released the 30-year-old wide receiver after trying to trade him in the offseason, but failing to find a market.
Hopkins is coming off two injury-shortened seasons that never reached the height of their potential beyond his first year in Arizona. While Hopkins didn’t captivate a trade market, there will be no shortage of teams lining up in free agency to try and land the receiver.
With OTAs already underway it will require a mixture of available cap space and need to make this fit worth. These are the teams that could hold mutual interest for both Hopkins, and the team looking to land him.
No. 1: Baltimore Ravens
This is obviously the top landing spot. There had been rumored interest from the Ravens surrounding the draft, and now with Lamar Jackson’s contract locked up it’s time to get him some more weapons.
The team already made a splash by signing Odell Beckham Jr., but there’s plenty of room to add Hopkins as well. Rashod Bateman remains more promise than production, and this could be the bridge the team needs to use veteran receivers to get the team over the hump until they can draft more receivers and keep the run going.
If Hopkins’ primary motivating factor is winning a Super Bowl, then the Ravens are likely team in need of a receiver who are most likely to get it done.
No. 2: Carolina Panthers
There is a huge need to get Bryce Young off to a strong start, and the Panthers offer a potentially compelling package of reasons. They have the available cap space (2nd most in the NFL) to get a deal done, and while this team is absolutely not a Super Bowl contender, they have the ability to make a playoff run.
The x-factor in a potential Panthers deal is a homecoming for Hopkins. A Clemson, South Carolina native, there would be some interest in returning to the area where he grew up, and play for the team he rooted for as a child. In addition, Hopkins would immediately become the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver, giving him plenty of exposure.
No. 3: Chicago Bears
The Bears are on a quest to make an impact right now, and Hopkins would help achieve that. Hopkins plugs in with D.J. Moore to immediately make one of the most intriguing tandems in the NFL, and a chance to play with one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league in Justin Fields.
Chicago has the most available cap space in the NFL and a huge media market that would give Hopkins a lot of exposure. This could be an ideal spot if he’s hoping for a short-term deal in order to set himself up for another major contract.
No. 4: Detroit Lions
The Lions could easily win the NFC North this year. The team has a lot of talent, a solid quarterback, and one solid receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown. The problem is the drop off from there, and Jameson Williams’ suspension adds to the issue.
Hopkins would be the perfect one-year option to ensure the Lions can live up to their potential and plug a hole until Jameson can return — while also giving Hopkins the freedom to get decent money now, and cash in on a future deal. Outside of the Ravens this is the best team he could join and it’s definitely one to watch.
No. 5: Indianapolis Colts
Another rebuilding team with promise, Hopkins would need to be okay taking a bit of a leap of faith here. The Colts already have Michael Pittman Jr. as an established receiver, but Hopkins would get plenty of targets if he’s willing to take on a role where he’d be catching passes from project Anthony Richardson.
That said, there’s a similar appeal here to Chicago. With Richardson at QB the Colts will get plenty of media attention, and if this works out Hopkins would be able to put up huge numbers and cement himself for a big contract down the line.
No. 6: New England Patriots
Bill Belichick needs more talent at receiver in the worst possible way, and this organization has a history to revitalizing the careers of offensive players. The rub is that there is a chasm from joining Tom Brady like Randy Moss was able, to catching passes from Mac Jones.
This feels like a very outside chance, but anything is possible.