NFL Teams That Should Target DeAndre Hopkins Following Latest Trade Rumors

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2023

NFL Teams That Should Target DeAndre Hopkins Following Latest Trade Rumors

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    Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins
    Cardinals WR DeAndre HopkinsCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins remains a playmaker at age 30. Though he appeared in only nine games this season because of a PED suspension and a knee injury, he still caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns.

    Should Hopkins become available, several franchises should be interested—and there's a chance that Hopkins is available this offseason. According to Jordan Schultz of The Score, the Cardinals plan to trade Hopkins before the start of the 2023 season.

    A recent Instagram post from Hopkins also seems to indicate that he believes his time in Arizona is over.

    Arizona's stance could change with a new regime—head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim were fired—but moving Hopkins now would make sense. Normally, a 30-year-old receiver might not bring a strong return in a trade, but this year's free-agent receiver pool is underwhelming, which should help maximize a return for Hopkins.

    Hopkins has a no-trade clause in his contract and is set to carry a $30.8 million cap hit in 2023. That cap hit will be reduced to $8.2 million after Arizona takes on the $22.6 million in dead money remaining on his deal—but he won't be a fit for every team. He'll have to sign off on any trade, and teams will either need to have the necessary cap space or be willing to negotiate a new long-term deal.

    However, these seven teams should be eyeing Hopkins' situation closely and be prepared to make an offer if and when he becomes available. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
    Ravens QB Lamar JacksonG Fiume/Getty Images

    Any interest the Baltimore Ravens have in Hopkins will likely hinge on whether they have a healthy Lamar Jackson under contract in March. The two-time Pro Bowler is set to be a free agent, and he remains sidelined by a knee injury. He is not expected to be ready to face the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend.

    "Not looking good for Lamar Jackson," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on Good Morning Football.

    If Jackson is under contract and ready to play in 2023, Hopkins would be a logical trade target. The Ravens don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver and have relied on tight end Mark Andrews as their top target.

    Demarcus Robinson led Baltimore wideouts with just 458 receiving yards in the regular season.

    Hopkins is an elite possession receiver who will make the contested catch more often than not. He would be a tremendous jump-ball target for Jackson, who can buy time in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield. It would also give him another elite red-zone target alongside Andrews.

    Pairing Hopkins with Andrews would immediately elevate Baltimore's 28th-ranked passing attack.

    The Ravens showed that they're willing to trade for talent when they acquired linebacker Roquan Smith during the season. With $48.8 million in projected cap space, they're also a team that would have no trouble taking on Hopkins' contract—though their cap situation will change when Jackson is either signed or franchise-tagged.

Chicago Bears

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    Bears QB Justin Fields
    Bears QB Justin FieldsMike Mulholland/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears are another team with the cap space to acquire Hopkins. Chicago is projected to have a league-high $111.6 million available this offseason.

    The Bears could also desperately use a receiver of Hopkins' caliber. Quarterback Justin Fields was a tremendous dual-threat this season, but he was much more dangerous with his legs than with his throwing arm.

    Fields finished with only 2,247 passing yards and 17 touchdowns but rushed for 1,143 yards and eight scores. A lack of quality receiving options at least played a role in the imbalance of his production.

    Tight end Cole Kmet led the Bears with a mere 544 receiving yards.

    Hopkins is the sort of reliable go-to target that could immediately aid Fields' development as a passer. The challenge for Chicago, of course, would be convincing Hopkins to come to a rebuilding team that just finished with the league's worst record.

    To land Hopkins, the Bears would have to sell the five-time Pro Bowl receiver on their assets and their future. Chicago might not be a contender now, but armed with a ridiculous amount of cap space, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft and a budding quarterback in Fields, that could change quickly.

    Would Hopkins have any interest in helping turn around a storied franchise like the Bears? Perhaps not, but Chicago should do what it can to find out.

Cleveland Browns

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    Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins
    Deshaun Watson and DeAndre HopkinsJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    It's not hard to connect the dots between Hopkins and the Cleveland Browns. The Browns employ quarterback Deshaun Watson, whose No. 1 target for three seasons with the Houston Texans was Hopkins.

    In his last season with Watson, Hopkins caught 104 passes for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. Watson finished with 3,852 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and a 98.0 passer rating.

    Reuniting the two former Texans would make a ton of sense for the Browns. Watson played in six games after serving an 11-game suspension for violation of the league's personal conduct policy, which came after 25 women filed lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct. In those six games, he was not the same Pro Bowl passer he was in Houston.

    Watson threw for just 1,102 yards with seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a lowly 79.1 rating.

    Cleveland has a pair of quality receivers in Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, but adding Hopkins would round out the receiving corps in a big way. Watson has thrived with Hopkins in the past, and there's little reason to think that the pair couldn't reestablish their chemistry in Cleveland.

    The Browns' challenge would be financial. They are projected to be $6 million over the cap and will already have to find ways to trim their salary expenses. Even after doing so, Cleveland likely couldn't acquire Hopkins without restructuring his contract and/or extending him.

    Making the financials work would be worth it, though, if it means getting the Pro Bowl version of Watson for which Cleveland traded.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
    Jaguars QB Trevor LawrenceCourtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    Hopkins appears to be interested in returning to the AFC South, but not to Houston. According to Arizona Sports' John Gambadoro, the wideout is eying the division-champion Jacksonville Jaguars—as well as the Los Angeles Chargers.

    "I'm being told Hopkins prefers to get to go to either the Jaguars or the Chargers," Gambadoro said on 98.7's Burns & Gambo (h/t Donnie Druin of FanNation). "... The top two destinations for him [are] Jacksonville to play with [head coach Doug] Pederson and [Trevor] Lawrence and then the Chargers obviously with the chance to play with Justin Herbert. He looks at those as good possibilities."

    If Jacksonville is a destination for which Hopkins would waive his no-trade clause, it makes sense for the Jaguars to consider a trade. Christian Kirk had an 1,100-yard receiving campaign this year, and he's signed through 2025. However, pass-catchers Marvin Jones Jr. and Evan Engram are slated to be free agents in March.

    Partnering Hopkins with Kirk and Zay Jones would give the Jaguars a tremendous receiving trio and would further aid the development of Lawrence—who finished with a 95.2 passer rating and played like a borderline elite quarterback down the stretch.

    Like the Browns, though, Jacksonville would face an uphill battle financially. The franchise is projected to be $19.9 million over the cap and would have to both clear space and negotiate a new contract to make a trade work.

    A trade wouldn't be easy, but if the Jaguars are indeed already on Hopkins' short list, they should try to make it happen.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Chargers QB Justin Herbert
    Chargers QB Justin HerbertDustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Chargers are another team that would have a tough time financially acquiring Hopkins. They're projected to be $9.6 million over the cap. However, they should be very interested in trying to make it work.

    Receiver isn't the biggest need for the Chargers, who have two great ones in Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. Both, though, carry injury concerns into 2023.

    Williams (ankle) and Allen (hamstring) missed a combined 11 games during the regular season. Williams also suffered a back injury in Week 18's meaningless game against the Denver Broncos.

    Additionally, the Chargers could lose receivers Jalen Guyton and DeAndre Carter in free agency. Michael Bandy will be an exclusive rights free agent, as well.

    While Allen, Williams and Joshua Palmer form a talented receiving trio, Hopkins could provide valuable depth and another top-tier target for quarterback Justin Herbert. With all four in the fold, L.A. would have arguably the best receiving corps in the conference—and a tremendous one even if one or two of the top targets are sidelined.

    Herbert is set to make his first postseason start this weekend, and the Chargers' Super Bowl window is now open. Hopkins might be a luxury in Los Angeles, but adding him could be the sort of win-now move that finally pushes the Chargers ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.

New England Patriots

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    Patriots QB Mac Jones
    Patriots QB Mac JonesBryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots would have a much easier time fitting Hopkins into their financial plans. With a projected $45.2 million in cap space, New England could acquire him and still have money left over with which to navigate the offseason.

    And the Patriots could use a No. 1 target like Hopkins on their roster.

    Quarterback Mac Jones, who was a rookie Pro Bowler last season, regressed in 2022. This was due, in part, to a lack of top-tier receiving options. Jakobi Meyers led the team with just 804 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He and Nelson Agholor are scheduled to be free agents in March.

    Hopkins is the sort of dependable target who could help Jones return to Pro Bowl form. However, the biggest cause of Jones' regression—he largely had the same receiving corps in 2021—could create problems with Hopkins' no-trade clause.

    New England's offense rarely had a rhythm this season, which wasn't a shock. When Josh McDaniels left to become the Las Vegas Raiders head coach, the Patriots tabbed longtime defensive coach Matt Patricia to run the offense. His offense ranked 26th overall and 20th in passing.

    The Patriots haven't announced any coaching changes yet, but a coordinator switch feels likely.

    "There has to be a coordinator change," ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said on NFL Live (h/t Hayden Bird of "Somebody that has a strong history of calling plays in the NFL."

    If the Patriots add a proven offensive play-caller, they could be a desirable destination for Hopkins. They feature a young and promising quarterback, a roster that won 18 games over the last two seasons and one of the league's top head coaches in Bill Belichick.

    Can the Patriots convince Hopkins to come to New England? They owe it to themselves to try.

New York Giants

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    Giants QB Daniel Jones
    Giants QB Daniel JonesAP Photo/Matt Rourke

    The New York Giants appear to have their long-term head coach in Brian Daboll. The former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator got New York into the postseason one year after it finished five straight seasons below .500.

    The Giants may also have their long-term quarterback and running back in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Both are scheduled to be free agents in March, but New York is looking to get them under contract.

    "The Giants do plan to attempt to work out a deal with both of these guys," Rapoport said on NFL Network.

    Adding Hopkins to an offense that features Jones and Barkley would give New York three legitimate playmakers around which to build. It could also help further Jones' development.

    The former Duke quarterback showed a lot of growth under Daboll this season (career-best 92.5 passer rating), and he did it without having a true No. 1 receiver. Daboll saw firsthand how adding Stefon Diggs aided Josh Allen in Buffalo—Allen had a career-best 107.2 rating when Diggs joined the team in 2020—and could look to make a similar QB-WR pairing by acquiring Hopkins.

    The Giants have the cap space ($56.8 million projected) to make a trade work. With their top two receivers, Darius Slayton and Richie James, set to hit the open market, they also have a massive need at receiver. There's no reason for New York to not make a run at Hopkins if he does land on the trade block.

    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac.