The Arizona Cardinals are in the first phase of a rebuild this offseason. They parted ways with both head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim in the wake of a 4-13 finish, replacing them with former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and former Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, respectively. Safety and top defensive leader Budda Baker demanded a trade in the event the Cardinals don't make him the highest-paid player at his position.
Then on Friday, the Cardinals DeAndre Hopkins, a player who was and was reportedly . Earlier in the week, he had gone on the "I AM ATHLETE" podcast and listed some qualities he's looking for wherever he ends up next. The attributes aligned with what contending teams in the NFL possess, not a team like the Cardinals.
"What I want is stable management upstairs," Hopkins 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."
While the receiver's requests appear to be a scathing indictment of the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, Hopkins clarified his belief in Murray, saying the 25-year-old does love the game. He also said Arizona is "in good hands" with Ossenfort as their general manager, but he's not thrilled about Murray likely while recovering from a torn ACL. The next man up in Arizona is journeyman Colt McCoy, who turns 37 on Sept. 5. Hopkins said he loves McCoy, but that's not quite the caliber of quarterback he's looking to play with in 2023.
"[I] currently [don't] have a Pro Bowl quarterback or a quarterback who I would say could," Hopkins said when addressing the Cardinals quarterback situation entering the season.
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Hopkins remains one of the NFL's most productive pass-catchers when healthy, as he led Arizona with 717 receiving yards despite playing just nine games last season. But the 30-year-old Pro Bowler has missed a combined 15 games since 2021, and is due $30.8 million in 2023 -- more than any receiver except the Dolphins' Tyreek Hill. In order to maintain a high-level of output into his 30s, Hopkins listed some of the NFL's top young quarterbacks when asked who he would like to catch passes from going forward as he hits the back half of his career.
"One of my favorite quarterbacks I've been watching since he came in the league is [Buffalo Bills QB] Josh Allen," Hopkins said. "He reminds me of a new-school Andrew Luck. I love Josh Allen. [Philadelphia Eagles QB] Jalen Hurts, he's a Houston kid, and he's a dog. [Kansas City Chiefs QB] Patrick Mahomes is another one I would love to throw me the ball. I [also] got to go with the underdog, not as many people respect him as a throwing quarterback, but [Baltimore Ravens QB] Lamar [Jackson]. ... I'm going to [also] have to go with my dude with the Chargers [Justin Herbert]."
Now that Hopkins is officially a free agent, he can choose his next landing spot based on whatever criteria he wants, and there's nothing the Cardinals or anyone else can do to stop him. All that matters is being able to hammer out a contract agreement with the next team.
Here's a look at logical landing spots, with all that in mind:
|The Ravens addressed their receiver room this offseason by signing Odell Beckham Jr. and drafting Boston College wideout Zay Flowers 22nd overall in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. However, they have some cap space ($11.8 million in 2023) and are flush with draft capital. If Jackson truly wants to make good on his in 2023, adding Hopkins is a must. There's even a slight personal connection: tight ends coach George Godsey was the Texans' offensive coordinator from 2015-16, when Hopkins made his Pro Bowl debut with a 1,500-yard breakout campaign. If Hopkins were to agree to a deal, Baltimore could provide Jackson with one of the better pass-catching arsenals in the entire league in 2023. |
|The Browns aren't exactly loaded with cap space (projected $7.0M), and they're also short on 2024 NFL Draft ammunition after selling the farm for QB Deshaun Watson, the quarterback Hopkins became a superstar with in the 2010s. However, they have got a clear need for better depth behind Amari Cooper, plenty of picks in 2025, and head coach Kevin Stefanski's leash may not be long for growing the passing offense with Watson. This signing would allow the Browns to become much more formidable competitors in a loaded AFC during a make-or-break season for the current regime.|
|The defending NFC champions are a natural fit for Hopkins, as they have arguably the best general manager in the league in Howie Roseman, his second-favorite quarterback in Jalen Hurts, and a top-five defense. Hopkins would be the most overqualified WR3 in the league behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, and the Eagles could provide him everything he's looking for. Roseman is certainly never afraid at taking big swings if he thinks it can improve the franchise.|
|The San Francisco 49ers don't have the quarterback profile Hopkins is looking for in second-year quarterback Brock Purdy, third-year quarterback Trey Lance, or young journeyman Sam Darnold. However, they have arguably the most-loaded offensive ecosystem in the NFL with Christian McCaffrey at running back, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk at wide receiver, George Kittle at tight end, Trent Williams at left tackle, and head coach Kyle Shanahan calling plays. The 49ers also employ the NFL's top scoring defense from last season (averaged 16.3 points per game allowed), and it's powered by 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, who led the NFL with 18.5 sacks. With Purdy healthy, Hopkins would enjoy plenty of room to roam in San Francisco's offensive attack.|
|Aaron Rodgers isn't a young quarterback, but as a Super Bowl MVP and a four-time NFL MVP, he has the pedigree Hopkins is looking for in his next passer. The New York Jets also possess a top-five defense, and Hopkins wouldn't have to be the No. 1 option with 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson also on the roster. With Rodgers turning 40 in December, it's win-now mode for Gang Green. That's an outlook Hopkins would appreciate.|
|They don't necessarily need another big-money target with 2022 second-team All-Pro CeeDee Lamb headlining their group, but there's a reason they traded a couple late-round picks to the Houston Texans for Brandin Cooks after flirting with Odell Beckham Jr. Adding a third proven route-winner like Hopkins to Lamb and Cooks would take pressure off of Michael Gallup as the No. 3, and when doesn't Jerry Jones enjoy making a splash? The financials would be the biggest hurdle, but with many players in the near future, the time is now for Dallas. |
|The Buffalo Bills are ready to contend for Super Bowls right now. They have been one of the NFL's most dominant teams across the last three regular seasons, leading the league in points per game (29.4) and points allowed per game (19.4) in that span. They could use another receiver after Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis since their current plan is to have . The Bills employ Hopkins' top choice to play with at QB in Josh Allen, too. If Hopkins is willing to agree to a smaller deal to fit under the salary cap, Buffalo makes the most sense. |