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 late in the season but failing to find a market.
Hopkins was coming off two injury-shortened seasons that never reached the peak of their potential beyond his freshman year in Arizona. Even if Hopkins doesn’t captivate the trading markets, there will be no shortage of teams lining up in free agency to try and land receivers.
With an OTA already in progress, it will require a mix of available cap space and need to make this feasible. This is a team that can share an interest in Hopkins, and a team that wants to land him.
Number 1: Baltimore Ravens
This is definitely a top landing spot. There have been rumors of interest from the Ravens surrounding the draft, and now with Lamar Jackson’s contract locked up, it’s time to give him more firepower.
The team has already made waves by signing Odell Beckham Jr., but there’s still plenty of room to add Hopkins as well. Rashod Bateman remains more promising than production, and this could be just the bridge the team needs to use veteran receivers to get the team to overcome adversity until they can line up more receivers and keep going.
If Hopkins’ primary motivating factor is winning the Super Bowl, then the Ravens are likely the team that needs a receiver most likely to finish.
Number 2: Carolina Panthers
There is a great need to get Bryce Young off to a strong start, and the Panthers offer a potentially compelling package of reasons. They have cap space available (2nd most in the NFL) to complete a deal, and while this team is by no means a Super Bowl contender, they do have the ability to make the playoffs.
The x factor in a potential Panthers deal is Hopkins’ return. A native of Clemson, South Carolina, there will be interest in returning to the area where he grew up, and playing for the team he supported as a child. In addition, Hopkins would soon become the No. 1 earner. 1 Panthers, gave him a lot of exposure.
Number 3: The Chicago Bears
The Bears are on a quest to make an impact right now, and Hopkins will help achieve that. Hopkins linked up with DJ Moore to quickly form one of the most exciting 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 which will give Hopkins a lot of exposure. This could be the ideal spot if he is hoping for a short-term deal to set himself up for another big contract.
Number 4: Detroit Lions
The Lions could easily win the NFC North this year. This team has a lot of talent, a solid quarterback and one solid receiver at Amon-Ra St. Brown. The problem was it went downhill from there, and the suspension of Jameson Williams added to the problem.
Hopkins would be the perfect one-year option to ensure the Lions can live up to their potential and plug the hole until Jameson can return — while also giving Hopkins the freedom to make the money he deserves now, and cash in on a future deal. Outside of the Ravens this is the best team he could be on and definitely a must watch.
Number 5: Indianapolis Colts
Another rebuilding team with promise, Hopkins should be fine taking a bit of a leap of faith here. The Colts already had Michael Pittman Jr. as an established receiver, but Hopkins will get a lot of targets if he is willing to take on a role where he will catch a pass from project Anthony Richardson.
That said, there is a similar attraction here to Chicago. With Richardson at QB, the Colts will get a lot of media attention, and if this works, Hopkins will be able to make a huge amount and solidify himself for a big contract later on.
Number 6: New England Patriots
Bill Belichick needs more talent as a receiver in the worst possible way, and this organization has a history of revitalizing offensive players’ careers. The point is that there is a gulf from joining Tom Brady as Randy Moss could, to catching the bait of Mac Jones.
This feels like a very outside opportunity, but anything is possible.