Sunday, June 4 2023

DeAndre Hopkins is a free agent. In late May.

Who’d have thought?

The Arizona Cardinals released the star receiver in a bit of a surprise move on Friday. They seemed interested in trading him — then, by draft day, they seemed uninterested in trading him. It seems they overplayed their hand, waiting for the right trade package that never came. And ultimately, the Cardinals and Hopkins have gone their separate ways.

Now, Hopkins will have the chance to choose his next landing spot. And he’ll have no shortage of suitors. He may be 30 years old, but he remains one of the top receivers in the NFL, even if he is no longer the top wideout. So let’s dive into where he might go for 2023 (and beyond).

New England Patriots

New England is expected to enter the mix, per a source close to the situation. The Patriots had been interested in Hopkins, but couldn’t get anything done with Arizona’s trade demands and the receiver’s contract. Now that he’s a free agent, it changes the situation. Maybe he and Bill O’Brien would need to sort out their differences from Houston. But Hopkins would instantly be the No. 1 option for Mac Jones and the Patriots — a real game-changer for an offense that lacks one.

Buffalo Bills


Buffalo looked one-dimensional for most of 2022, with an over-reliance on the deep game and Josh Allen‘s legs. Hopkins is an absolute jump-ball warrior, but he’s also an excellent possession receiver at this point in his career. He might not open up the quick game (which is why the Bills seem to have drafted tight end Dalton Kincaid in Round 1), but Hopkins would bring a much-needed element to the offense.

New York Jets

Sensing a pattern here? Yes, most of the AFC East will be after Hopkins. Allen Lazard and Garrett Wilson are a solid 1-2 punch, but it’s not the same as Wilson and Hopkins. That’s a whole different level of talent. So as the Jets try to stockpile talent for Aaron Rodgers, Hopkins seems like a legitimate option for them. Of course, it might upset DT Quinnen Williams, who is awaiting a contract extension. But maybe the Jets can get both things done.

[Quinnen Williams changes Twitter bio amid contract dispute with Jets]

New York Giants

Our first NFC team, the Giants couldn’t make things work with Kenny Golladay, a big-framed receiver who figured to provide the constant threat of a big play. So how about Hopkins? He and tight end Darren Waller would make for a compelling pairing, particularly in the red zone. Hopkins is a heck of a lot better than the group in place in New York: Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell. They all have potential — but not a lot of production.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have a handful of small to mid-sized receivers. And none of them is a proven entity. That’s just fine for Patrick Mahomes, who no longer needs a guy like Tyreek Hill to win a championship. (See: Super Bowl LVII.) But if the Chiefs can get Hopkins, my bet is that they’re going to get Hopkins. He’d make their offense a lot better.

[Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes no longer needs a supporting cast. He creates one]

Baltimore Ravens

Why stop at Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers? The Ravens have been rebuilding their receiving corps with urgency this offseason. They signed Beckham earlier this offseason and then drafted Flowers in the first round last month. 

It all has felt like a peace offering to Lamar Jackson, who finally signed a contract extension with the team this month. The truth is that we don’t know where Beckham will be physically in his injury recovery process. And we don’t know how quickly Flowers can make an impact. (This wasn’t perceived to be the most impressive rookie crop of wideouts.) So Hopkins can help create more certainty in a position group that, while revamped, has some lingering concerns.

Detroit Lions

Speaking of uncertainty, the Lions are going to be without Jameson Williams for their first six games for violating the league’s gambling policy. And we don’t know how good he’ll look when he comes back, given that he has recorded just one catch in the NFL. 

Detroit can stick with Marvin Jones and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but the Lions would look a whole lot better with Hopkins in the mix. He’d give Jared Goff a real weapon to stretch defenses, which would relieve the all-important running game, led by rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and free-agent addition David Montgomery.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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