DeAndre Hopkins has been a free agent for two weeks, waiting patiently for teams to give him a call. The Tennessee Titans are the first to bite as Hopkins will fly to Nashville to meet with Tennessee on Sunday, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reports.
This will be Hopkins' first free agent visit with a team, and an opportunity to return to the AFC South while playing for Mike Vrabel. Hopkins and Vrabel were together with the Houston Texans for four years, though Vrabel coached the defensive side of the ball. The familiarity and need for a No. 1 wide receiver in Tennessee make the Titans an attractive destination for Hopkins.
The Titans' top three wide receivers are Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Philips, creating a need for the position in what could be Ryan Tannehill's final season as the starting quarterback (he'll be a free agent at the end of the year).
Hopkins has the eighth-most receiving yards through a player's first 10 seasons in NFL history (11.298) and the fourth-most receptions after a player's first 10 seasons (853). Hopkins averaged 7.1 catches per game (fourth in NFL) and 79.7 receiving yards per game (10th in NFL) despite only playing nine games last season. He's been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his 10 NFL seasons.
Vrabel has even commented on Hopkins since his release, saying the team is "focused on the players they have here." But Tennessee never did rule out Hopkins, despite Vrabel making it appear as if the team wasn't interested.
, but Tennessee gets the first opportunity at convincing him to play for its franchise.
Why it makes sense for Titans to add Hopkins
If anyone can name the top five wide receivers on the Titans depth chart, that's worth multiple bonus points on the NFL knowledge exam. The top three Titans wide receivers (Burks, Westbrook-Ikhine, Philips) combined for 68 catches for 919 yards and four touchdowns last season. Hopkins himself had 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns -- in only nine games.
Hopkins has eclipsed those 2022 catch and yard totals by Burks, Westbrook-Ikhine, and Philips in seven consecutive seasons. He would be the No. 1 wide receiver on the Titans roster, getting a high volume of targets and being the primary pass catcher on a team that played for the AFC South title on the final week of the regular season.
While Tennessee may not be a Super Bowl contender, Hopkins gives the Titans an opportunity to compete with the Jaguars in a rebuilding division. This may be the last year for Tennessee to make a playoff run with Tannehill and Derrick Henry, so why not add Hopkins to the mix and go for the division?
Why it doesn't make sense for Titans to add Hopkins
The Titans don't really have the salary cap space to give Hopkins a big contract, even for one year. According to the NFLPA, Tennessee has $8,614,228 in available salary cap space -- so Hopkins would have to take a discount if he wanted to play there. If he's going to take a discount, why not do it on a better team such as the Buffalo Bills or Kansas City Chiefs, for instance?
Hopkins would be the No. 1 wide receiver in Tennessee. but how much would he improve the offense? His his presence does give the Titans a legitimate pass catcher on the outside, and Hopkins would help Burks develop in Year 2, so the pair would be a formidable duo. But there's the quarterback situation with Tannehill. If he struggles in 2023, when does the veteran get benched for Will Levis? The Titans owe nothing to Tannehill after this season, and could look toward the future if Tannehill struggles or if the team gets off to a poor start. This season would be a wasted one for Hopkins.
Tennessee doesn't have a good history of acquiring Hall of Fame-caliber receivers in their 30s. Randy Moss, Julio Jones, and Andre Johnson weren't difference makers, so maybe the Titans shy away. Moss and Johnson were already in decline when they went to Tennessee -- and injuries bit Jones when he arrived in Nashville.
Jones is a cautionary tale, but Hopkins was productive when he played last season (he did miss eight games). If Tennessee has to get in a bidding war with teams having more cap space, the Titans should pass.