GLENDALE – The Arizona Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins on Friday after three seasons with the team. Hopkins is one of the top wide receivers in the NFL when healthy and usually gets over 1,000 receiving yards per season. Where will the Pro Bowl wide receiver end up? Which team will sign him?
He stated he’d like to play on the Bills, Chargers, Ravens, or Chiefs. Of course, his desire to play for one of these teams doesn’t guarantee he will end up playing for any of them. It’s important to remember that teams don’t just sign free agents without evaluating any risk involved. There is some risk to signing Hopkins. It has little to do with his age of 30 as wide receivers can have very productive seasons until around 35 in the best circumstances. However, Hopkins suffered two hamstring injuries and an ACL tear I’m the last two years.
Even so, it’s possible that Hopkins will still be the same physical wide receiver that everyone is used to seeing. In 2022, he gained 717 yards and three touchdowns despite playing in just nine games. For only nine out of a possible 17 games played, he posted elite stats.
His availability is the only question. In 2021, he played just 10 games. He may play all of 2023 without any injuries. It’s premature to say that Hopkins is injury prone and doesn’t have a chance of playing at least 13 games per season. There is a chance he’ll bounce back and be good to go for the entire season 2023 season. In fairness, a team knows exactly what it’s getting when he’s on the field. The team that signs him will get a major boost in the passing game.
With the injury concerns, teams will have to carefully evaluate whether he’s still a number one receiver or is he a nice number two wide receiver to complement a team’s number one receiver. Either way, Hopkins is definitely a high-risk, high-reward signing. It would be an even greater risk to avoid signing him. The big question is contract details. How much per year will he get? Will he get more than three years on his next deal?
The odds are more likely that Hopkins will receive an incentives-based contract rather than a lot of guaranteed money. He may only get a one-year prove-it deal as teams aren’t sure if he’ll play all season. An incentives-based deal might be acceptable as long the incentives equal the same dollar amount as a guaranteed money contract, assuming Hopkins is able to fulfill all incentives. Hopkins will likely be hesitant to accept such a deal early which is understandable.
It’s unlikely Hopkins will agree to a deal before the end of June as teams may be tough to negotiate with given the injury history. During that time, Hopkins will likely reject all incentives-based contracts as it’s too risky to accept such a deal early on given his years of experience and ability to cause matchup problems.
Of course, one team can become a top suitor if they offer enough guaranteed money, thus ending any speculation of tough negotiations.