DeAndre Hopkins has suddenly emerged as the hottest free agent name in the NFL before Memorial Day 2023, following his release from the Arizona Cardinals Friday. But now comes this red-hot question: Who’s in pursuit of the All-Pro wide receiver?
It turns out the Super Bowl Champions inquired about Hopkins before he was even released. But could another surprise team swoop in and land the veteran WR?
Latest on DeAndre Hopkins and the Chiefs
Revealed by NFL insider Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated on Saturday morning, the Kansas City Chiefs were among the two teams that had “substantive” talks with the Cardinals about a potential trade for Hopkins. The other was the Buffalo Bills.
However, Hopkins’ contract prevented a blockbuster trade for the five-time Pro Bowler. Breer added that Odell Beckham Jr. signing his $15 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens “more or less blew [Kansas City’s] progress up.”
With Hopkins no longer considered a trade candidate as a newly released veteran, he’s realistically free to sign anywhere, including with the Chiefs. And already, one defender with ties to Hopkins is making a pitch.
Chiefs Defender Trying To Coax Hopkins to Kansas City
The Chiefs have someone moonlighting as a recruiting coordinator. And he happens to be a past teammate of Hopkins.
EDGE Charles Omenihu, who was one of the team’s defensive free agent signings via the San Francisco 49ers, took to social media to attempt his recruiting pitch to DHop.
“You free now come on to the kingdom @DeAndreHopkins,” Omenihu directed to the star wideout on Twitter.
Hopkins and the versatile defender Omenihu have past ties: Both were members of the Houston Texans, and their time in Houston overlapped for one season.
Omenihu was a rookie in 2019 when Hopkins caught 104 receptions for 1,165 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Hopkins, though, was eventually traded to the Cardinals in exchange for running back David Johnson.
Omenihu would go on to play two more seasons with the Texans before being traded midseason to the 49ers. He went on to play in back-to-back NFC title games with San Francisco while becoming NFC West rivals with Hopkins and the Cardinals.
Is There Room for a Signing, or Is Hopkins Too Expensive for the Champs?
The Chiefs would have to do some serious contract restructuring to have room for Hopkins.
According to Over the Cap, Kansas City sits at $652,557 in cap space for 2023.
PFN’s Dalton Miller took a dive into what a Hopkins contract could look like for his next team. “One thing is certain… it won’t be cheap,” Miller wrote.
Again, Beckham’s deal helped throw a wrench into contract talks, as his deal impacts the 2023 market for veteran wideouts. Miller adds, “Hopkins has earned the right to earn more money than Beckham at this current point in each player’s career.”
As for K.C., the Chiefs still have a bevy of weapons to turn to, beginning with 110-catch Pro Bowler Travis Kelce and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who hit his career-high mark for single-season receptions last season.
Kansas City also has second-year pro Skyy Moore — who’ll more than likely look to level up on the depth chart after his three starts last season.
Hopkins, no doubt, would make Kansas City a heavy favorite to repeat. But the Chiefs are still considered a threat for the title without DHop too.
Is Baltimore the Official Favorite To Land DeAndre Hopkins?
Various national betting sites have the Baltimore Ravens high on the list in landing DHop.
DraftKings is one, giving Baltimore +650 odds of luring in the five-time Pro Bowler. They’re behind the current favorite, the New York Jets, who were given +700 odds.
But there’s another reason behind the idea of a Hopkins/Ravens linking: his recent comments on I AM ATHLETE. On the show, Hopkins discussed the idea of him forming a new duo with the 2019 MVP, Lamar Jackson.
“I love Lamar Jackson,” Hopkins said to hosts Brandon Marshall and Ashley Nicole Moss. “Lamar Jackson is one of my favorite athletes since I’ve been watching sports. I’ve been a fan of Lamar for a long time. I’d be lying to say if I didn’t say…it would be an honor to play with a great guy and great quarterback like Lamar.”
Those comments were made before the Cards officially parted ways with the All-Pro wideout. Now, Hopkins is free to sign elsewhere as a released free agent — and that includes Baltimore.
How Hopkins Changes Complexion of Ravens Offense
Jackson having Hopkins and Beckham on the same roster is something NFL fans would have previously likely only seen in the Pro Bowl. Now, the stakes of landing Hopkins just increased for Baltimore.
Already, the Ravens made their first aggressive move in coaxing Jackson to stay by signing Beckham to his $15 million deal. But Baltimore has other speed elements in place with veteran Nelson Agholor and first-round draft selection Zay Flowers out of Boston College.
This is still a Ravens offense that doesn’t know who officially becomes the WR1. While Beckham has his history of being a past No. 1, he accepted a WR2 role with the Los Angeles Rams opposite of Cooper Kupp during his last NFL stop in 2021. Plus, he’s coming back from a devastating ACL tear suffered in Super Bowl 56, which prevented him from playing in 2022.
Agholor, meanwhile, has never been a lead target. Flowers, as a rookie, is currently being presented with a strong chance of establishing himself as Jackson’s top go-to wideout as OBJ continues his recovery.
Hopkins, however, can become the top aerial focal point of the offense if brought over.
The 6’1″, 202-pound Hopkins would give Baltimore someone who can haul down the contested grabs, and he’s dangerous after the catch while eluding defenders in the open field. While he’s attacked defenses deep, he’s proven to be a short-to-intermediate route attacker over the years, especially when there’s an opening created by other wide receivers drawing coverage matchups.
All that speed on the field can mean less bracket or double coverage for Hopkins, especially on plays where he’s lined up next to OBJ.
Dilemma With Baltimore Adding Hopkins Involves OBJ
Count Beckham as the reason why a Hopkins-to-Ravens deal comes with a dilemma.
Per Sports Illustrated NFL insider Albert Breer, Beckham’s deal impacted a potential trade involving DHop for both the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Hopkins’ hefty contract, plus what OBJ was handed by the Ravens, were the reasons why the two teams shied away.
With Hopkins being projected in the $15 million range, similar to OBJ, a deal would put the Ravens in the red for their salary cap. Following Jackson’s blockbuster $260 million deal and the Beckham addition, Baltimore now sits at $11,757,827 in 2023 salary cap space, per Over the Cap.
Hopkins and the Ravens would have to find a way to work with a lesser, more manageable deal. But, with two AFC contenders, the Chiefs and Bills, having their trade idea blow up, the Ravens can make the attempt to swoop in on Hopkins and increase a new kind of odds — their Vince Lombardi Trophy-winning odds.