Ranking NFL Playoff Contenders That Need Free Agent WR DeAndre Hopkins

Over a decade in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins has amassed over 11,000 receiving yards and 71 touchdowns. He has posted six 1,000-yards seasons, topped 100 receptions four times and made five Pro Bowls.

Now, he’s looking for work. Per the team’s website, the Arizona Cardinals released Hopkins Friday after efforts to trade him were unsuccessful.

Hopkins has admittedly struggled with injuries the past two years. But when healthy, he’s a high-end No. 1 receiver. A difference-maker. And as such, there should be no shortage of interest in his services.

Of course, interest from prospective suitors is only part of the equation here. Based on his comments on a recent podcast appearance, Hopkins has a wish-list of teams he wants to play for. In news that should surprise no one, those teams are contenders with high-end quarterbacks. Then there’s the matter of a new contract for Hopkins—a contract that won’t be small. There’s also the matter of fit—a need or desire to sign Hopkins big enough to justify the expense.

Using all those factors, here’s a look at the six teams who most need to take a run at Hopkins—in part because he’ll make their team that much better.

And in part because they have a realistic shot at actually landing him.

Salary cap data courtesy of Spotrac

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Speaking strictly from a need perspective, there isn’t a playoff contender in the NFL who needs the services of DeAndre Hopkins more than the New York Giants. As Patricia Traina reported for Giants Country, New York’s current wide receiver room is…yeah.

“Although the Giants have quantity at receiver, there are questions regarding the quality production the collective group might be able to yield,” Traina said. “Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, rookie Jalin Hyatt, and Darius Slayton all figure to be locks for roster spots if healthy. Still, none of them have ever had a 1,000-yard receiving season nor drawn the kind of attention that Hopkins has in his career.”

The Giants brought in veteran tight end Darren Waller in the offseason, but that doesn’t change the fact that Daniel Jones doesn’t have a “go-to” wideout. The Giants have a room full of No. 2 and No. 3 receivers—but no No. 1.

Hopkins would fix that—but there are a couple reasons why Hopkins to New York isn’t especially likely.

For starters, when Hopkins recently rattled off a list of preferred destinations and quarterbacks, Daniel Jones and the Giants weren’t on the list. Playing in America’s largest media market might appeal to Hopkins, but Jones just isn’t the same caliber quarterback as the who’s who Hopkins mentioned.

The second is money—or lack thereof. The Giants have the seventh-least cap space in the NFL—less than $4 million. Signing Hopkins would require clearing a fair amount of cap space through restructurings.

So, while there may not be a team where Hopkins would make a bigger difference, the Giants are a longshot.

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From the moment DeAndre Hopkins trade rumors began to swirl, pundits pointed at the Kansas City Chiefs as a potential fit. It wasn’t particularly hard to see why, either.

Yes, the Chiefs fielded the NFL’s most prolific offense in 2022 on the way to a victory in Super Bowl LVII, but they did so with JuJu Smith-Schuster as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Now Smith-Schuster is in New England, and the Chiefs did little to replace him in the offseason. As it stands now, the Chiefs’ top receivers are Kadarius Toney, Marques Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore. That’s not exactly a fearsome trio.

Yes, the Chiefs have the NFL’s No. 1 tight end in Travis Kelce, But Kelce is 33 and closer to the end of his career than the beginning. The Chiefs are smack in the middle of their championship window, but those don’t stay open forever. The addition of Hopkins would be a huge boost for an offense that was already the only team in the league that averaged over 400 yards per game in 2022.

For Hopkins, what’s not to like? He’d get the opportunity to play with Patrick Mahomes on a team that has played in three of the last four Super Bowls.

However, there’s one major sticking point—and it’s the reason the Chiefs are ranked at the bottom of this list. No team in the AFC has less cap space than the Chiefs, and the team hasn’t finished signing its rookie class yet.

Finding the money to sign Hopkins could be done. But it would take quite a bit of restructuring of other contracts.

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While making an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast, DeAndre Hopkins was asked about his personal list of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. One of the signal-callers that Hopkins singled out was Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. In fact, Allen got the top spot.

“Oh, that’s a good question,” Hopkins said. “I would have to say, one of my favorite quarterbacks that I’ve been watching since he came into the league, is… Josh Allen. He reminds me of a new school Andrew Luck, and you know … I love Josh Allen.”

There had already been speculation that the Bills could be a landing spot for Hopkins in a trade, and for good reason. The Bills are absolutely a team with its eyes on the Super Bowl, so “win now” moves make sense. The Bills have a superstar wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, but while Gabe Davis has shown the occasional flash, he has been unable to serve as a consistent No, 2. Behind Davis, the depth chart at wide receiver gets pretty blah pretty quick.

A Diggs/Hopkins dup might not be quite as fearsome as say Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in Miami—but it wouldn’t be far off.

Just as with the Chiefs though, money is a problem. In part because of Allen’s massive salary, the Bills have the third-fewest cap space in the league. There just isn’t any money to sign Hopkins unless several players re-do their deals.

However, while that may be difficult, it isn’t impossible.

So, keep hope alive, Bills Mafia!

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You can bet the rent that the moment DeAndre Hopkins was released, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones started ruminating on whether to take a run at the soon-to-be 31-year-old.

Because the only thing Jones likes more than making moves is making splash moves.

The Cowboys already made a move at wide receiver this year, flipping a pair of late picks to the Houston Texans for Brandin Cooks. But that move doesn’t preclude the Cowboys from also pursuing Hopkins. A starting trio of CeeDee Lanb, Cooks and Hopkins would give Dak Prescott an embarrassment of riches in the passing game. Throw in Michael Gallup, and you have a quartet guaranteed to give defenses fits in four-wide sets.

It’s been three decades since the Cowboys made it as far as the NFC Championship Game, and if that long, dry spell doesn’t inspire urgency something else should. Lamb, edge-rusher Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs are all nearing the end of their rookie deals. The salary cap situation in Dallas is going to get really dicey, really soon. The time for a “win now” mentality is, well, now.

And there isn’t an owner in the league who wants another championship more than Jones.

As things stand now, the Cowboys are about $10.5 million under the salary cap—the room is there if the deal is structured properly to get Hopkins on the team.

Given what he could do for the NFL’s No. 14 passing attack from last year, the Cowboys have to strongly consider taking a run at him.

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That shrieking sound you just heard is NFL defensive coordinators imagining DeAndre Hopkins signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Trotting out A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Hopkins in three-wide sets would be a nightmare for opponents. Mind you, this is an Eagles offense that ranked ninth in the NFL in passing last year without Hopkins. Adding him to the mix would give the Eagles the best trio of receivers in the league—hands down.

Philly would certainly seem to offer Hopkins all he could ask for in a destination. While appearing on the I Am Athlete podcast, Hopkins had this to say about what he was looking for a new team.

“What I want is stable management upstairs,” he said. “I think that’s something I haven’t really had the past couple years of my career coming from Houston and then to Arizona. I’ve been through three or four GMs in my career, so a stable management. A QB who loves the game, a QB who brings everybody on board with him and pushes not just himself but everybody around him … and a great defense. A great defense wins championships.”

The Eagles have all those things—and over $13 million in cap space with which to get a deal done.

The biggest sticking point here could just be that this is an absolute luxury move. The Eagles just made the Super Bowl without Hopkins, and Howie Roseman could decide that adding another mercurial wideout could potentially cause more problems than it solves.

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What do you get for the quarterback who has everything?

Why, a new No. 1 receiver, of course.

Mind you, the Ravens have spent the past several months giving Lamar Jackson reasons to smile. Baltimore signed Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency. Drafted Zay Flowers in the first round of the 2023 draft. And gave the 2019 NFL MVP a five-year, $260 million contract.

Why stop now?

Not that long ago, the Ravens had arguably the weakest wide receiver corps in the NFL. Signing Beckham and drafting Flowers were both major steps in the right direction for the team, but adding Hopkins as well would take Baltimore’s passing game to a whole other level. Beckham, Flowers, Hopkins and tight end Mark Andrews is an impressive array of passing-game weapons—light-years better than anything Jackson has had at his disposal to this date in his career.

Per Ravens Vault podcast host Sarah Ellison wrote there are even more dots to connect.

“Jackson requested that the Ravens try to sign DeAndre Hopkins,” she tweeted. DeAndre Hopkins said Lamar Jackson is “one of the greats” and would love to play with him. OBJ has been working out with D-Hop this offseason. D-Hop in Baltimore makes too much sense.”

Add in that the Ravens have the cap space ($11.8 million) to get a deal done and it appears Ellison is on to something.

Need. Money. Fit. Desire from Hopkins to play there.

It’s all there.