Bills? Cowboys? ESPN lists best fits for DeAndre Hopkins after Cardinals release

May 27, 2023, 6:16 PM

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after Arizona defeated the Chicag...

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after Arizona defeated the Chicago Bears 33-22 at Soldier Field on December 05, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

It is not often a potential WR1 hits the market at the doorstep of June, but here we are.

The Arizona Cardinals announced on Friday they released DeAndre Hopkins after they could not find a trade partner, largely due to his $19.45 million base salary for 2023. The move forces the Cardinals to eat $22.6 million in dead cap, but they will be clear in 2024.

Hopkins now hits a market of teams looking for that final piece ahead of training camp and the regular season, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler picked out the best possible marriages.

He listed five best fits and four wild cards.

The five contenders: Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

The Bills have already been linked to Hopkins multiple times this offseason. Edge rusher Von Miller told reporters that Hopkins said he’d like to play for them. The veteran receiver also named Bills QB Josh Allen as one of five players he’d like to catch passes from on the “I Am Athlete” podcast.

He also listed Patrick Mahomes of the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, a team without a clear No. 1 receiver to line up alongside star tight end Travis Kelce.

The issue with both AFC juggernauts is fitting Hopkins in under the cap, as Fowler explained:

But if he wants money close to the $19.45 million he was due in Arizona, that could be a nonstarter for the Bills, who have $2.4 million in cap space. Buffalo would need to get creative to fit Hopkins on the books.

… And like with Buffalo, cap space is a problem for the Chiefs, who enter the weekend with $1.6 million.

The Jets have reloaded on offense with Aaron Rodgers under center. Their group of receivers includes reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, newcomers Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Mecole Hardman and veteran Corey Davis. The position corps would be loaded with Hopkins in the building.

The Cowboys have not won multiple playoff games in a run since the 1990s, and they already added Brandin Cooks to the WR room with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

Hopkins shook his head when asked if Dak Prescott was in his top five for quarterbacks he wanted to play with on “I Am Athlete,” though.

The Saints added quarterback Derek Carr this winter and face an NFC South devoid of much proven NFL quarterback talent.

Not listed were the Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens or Philadelphia Eagles, whose quarterbacks Hopkins mentioned.

The four wild card options were the Cleveland Browns with Hopkins’ former teammate Deshaun Watson, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

New England brought in former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to run the offense this offseason. O’Brien traded Hopkins to Arizona after the 2019 campaign.

Do I sense DeAndre Hopkins is eager to reunite with Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — the two reportedly had a rocky relationship in Houston — in an unsettled quarterback situation for the right to practice in the snow? No. But money often drives these conversations, and it’s no secret the Patriots have been on the market for pass-catching help for Mac Jones.

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Bills? Cowboys? ESPN lists best fits for DeAndre Hopkins after Cardinals release