Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was released by Arizona on Friday afternoon, the team announced.
We have released Deandre Hopkins. pic.twitter.com/POnAb3uhWH— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) May 26, 2023
Hopkins was drafted 27th overall by the Texans in 2013 out of Clemson. He broke out as a third-year pro with 111 receptions (third-most in the NFL) for 1,521 yards (also third-most). “Nuk” led the league in receiving scores in 2017.
He and former Jaguars shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey had some of the best one-on-one matchups between NFL stars in recent memory. They were both elite players at their respective positions, and they were both trying to drag struggling AFC South franchises to postseason contention.
Hopkins earned first-team All-Pro selections in each of his final three seasons as a Texan (setting a different single-season receiving record for the team each year) before being infamously traded to Arizona in 2020. In his first year out west, he became the youngest NFL player to reach 10,000 career receiving yards. The future Hall-of-Famer had 2,696 yards and 60 touchdowns in 35 total games for the Cardinals.
Now, Hopkins is on the open market.
DHop since entering the NFL in 2013:— Brad Spielberger, Esq. (@PFF_Brad) May 26, 2023
-893 catches (1st)
-595 catches for a 1st down (1st)
-86 contested catches (3rd)
-39 games w/ 100+ REC YDS (T-3rd)
-71 REC TDs (4th)
- 88.6 receiving grade (10th)
- 1.7% drop rate (3rd)
- Top 15 in YPRR
It’s rare for a player of his caliber to be available, but due to his salary, no other team was interested in trading for Hopkins prior to his release.
Read I got on DeAndre Hopkins -- and why some teams believed he would get released -- was $19M salary always prohibitive, even if non-guaranteed. Teams that wanted reworked deal at lesser clip weren't convinced he would take. Odell Beckham's big $ made taking less even tougher— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 26, 2023
The Cardinals will be charged with $22.6 million in dead cap in 2023. Hopkins was previously lined up for a $30.75 million cap hit, which would’ve ranked first among all Arizona players and NFL receivers, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.
Hopkins, 30, had been at the center of trade speculation for months, but the Cardinals didn’t deal the wide receiver during April’s NFL draft. General manager Monti Ossenfort said at the time: “DeAndre’s a Cardinal, and we’re moving forward.”
The Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots had been among the teams reportedly interested in pursuing Hopkins.
Hopkins skipped the Cardinals’ voluntary organized team activities this month, saying on the “I Am Athlete” podcast with Brandon Marshall that he was instead in Toronto to work out.
Hopkins figures to demand close to $20 million per year, considering teams “weren’t convinced” he’d agree to a post-trade deal for under $19 million a season.
According to Over The Cap, there are 13 NFL receivers who earn at least $20 million annually. Newly-signed Raven Odell Beckham Jr., who may be the best recent example of an aging All-Pro receiver hitting free agency, is now earning $15 million per year in Baltimore.
Hopkins has publicly hinted at his preferred destinations several times over the past few months.
- On the Burns & Gambo Show when trade rumors began in early January, radio host John Gambarado said Hopkins preferred the Jaguars or Chargers thanks to their young star quarterbacks.
- On the All Things Covered podcast last month, Hopkins was open to playing with the Bills and Chiefs but against the Patriots and Jets (pre-Aaron Rodgers trade).
- On the I Am Athlete podcast earlier this week, Hopkins said he wanted to go to a team with stable management, a great defense, and a quarterback who loves the game. He also listed Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert as the top-five passers he’d love to play with.
So. We know now that DeAndre Hopkins is an all-world wide receiver who will be looking to sign a large contract with a Super Bowl contender, one which also has a great quarterback. Do the Jaguars make sense?
The answer is probably not. Jacksonville has already devoted significant capital towards skill position players: its receivers are set to make $42 million combined this season, which ranks fourth-most among all NFL teams. Resource allocation is a major factor here.
A Zay Jones release/trade wouldn’t free up much money, and even if the Jaguars did go all-in on offense, Hopkins might prefer several teams over Jacksonville. Trevor Lawrence is on the way to receiving MVP votes, but he hasn’t made it there quite yet; the overall roster is similarly not-yet-fully-proven as a title contender.
A lineup with Lawrence, Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and Travis Etienne would be nice, though. Nuk could feast against single coverage with Ridley demanding attention, and he’d be invaluable as an endzone target.
Fingers crossed that Hopkins signs with a non-AFC team (assuming it isn’t Jacksonville). Where do you want to see him sign, Jaguars fans?