Cardinals’ release of DeAndre Hopkins a product of his contract situation

May 26, 2023, 11:58 AM | Updated: 5:07 pm

DeAndre Hopkins’ tenure as an Arizona Cardinal has come to an unceremonious end with the announced release of the star wide receiver on Friday.

Given all the trade chatter this offseason and the wide receiver’s recent comments on I Am Athlete about what he wanted out of an organization, in addition to listing quarterbacks not named Kyler Murray he would like to play with, it was more of a matter of when he would head elsewhere, not if.

But a release? That’s a tough look no matter how you spin it.

Or is it? Remember, it always takes two to tango.

The writing had been on the wall that Hopkins had likely played his last game in Arizona in 2022.

With former head coach Kliff Kingsbury fired, general manager Steve Keim resigned, Murray dealing with an ACL tear and a full-blown rebuild on the horizon, it just made sense to move on via trade.

It all seemed doable on the surface given Hopkins’ pedigree and ability as a pass catcher. We saw how he changed Arizona’s offense for the better when he was available. His first season in the desert proved just that behind 115 catches for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns.

Even missing eight games last season, Hopkins still paced the team in receiving yards (717) and was second in receptions (64) and touchdowns (three).

Dive deeper into the financials, though, and you’ll find the wrench in Arizona’s trade plans for the wideout.

Hopkins’ base salary for this upcoming season sits at $19.45 million. That number drops slightly to $14.9 million in 2024.

For any of the prospective teams looking into adding Hopkins, those are tough pills to swallow, especially if he didn’t want to budge on a reworked deal as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler hinted at Friday following the wide receiver’s release.

The Buffalo Bills, for example, had been rumored to be in the mix to acquire Hopkins’ services, but currently have just under $1.5 million in freed up cap space. The New England Patriots, another team thrown around as a potential suitor, has around $14.1 million.

And that’s without even mentioning his availability the past two seasons, appearing in 19 games due to injury and a six-game PED suspension. You can be a world beater, but if you can’t stay on the field, it’s all for naught.

That left just one avenue to traverse for first-year general manager Monti Ossenfort as he worked to remedy all the wrongs left behind by the previous regime.

Not getting anything for Hopkins stings. There’s no way around it. But just take a look at the current market for wide receivers.

Brandon Cooks got dealt this offseason for a fifth- and sixth-rounder. Allen Robinson headed elsewhere in a package for a seventh-round pick. That’s not to say either of these players are in the same echelon as Hopkins, but the moves do paint a picture on how wary teams are on selling the farm to add decent pass catchers.

Added draft capital is valuable for a rebuilding Cardinals team, but so is freeing up cap space.

Let’s be real, 2023 is not shaping up to be a banner year for this Arizona squad. You can go as far as to call it a redshirt season for the Cardinals as they look to 2024 and beyond loaded with valuable draft assets.

So instead of taking a lesser dead-money hit of $11.3 million in each of the next two seasons, why not take on the full brunt of the $22.6 million in a year where spending is expected to be light as Arizona works to get in a better standing from a cap-space standpoint?

The optics aren’t the greatest, that can be true.

Arizona also has a real chance at coming out the other side of this in a much better place financially and roster-wise even if it’s down the road. That can also be true.

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