New England Patriots

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals lines up during the NFL game against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 30-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Coming into the 2023 offseason, reports were that the Patriots hoped to make a big move at the wide receiver position. Yet a month after the NFL Draft, the team has yet to add that “one player you gotta game plan for,” as described by NFL insider Mike Giardi.

Usually, those kinds of moves don’t happen this late in the NFL calendar. Players fitting that description are typically acquired earlier on in the offseason process, to allow teams to build around them. However, one ‘WR1’ is about to hit the market, a few days after OTAs started.

  • On Friday afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals announced they plan to release 30-year-old wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has been a rumored trade candidate since the offseason began, but according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic multiple factors including his age, injury history, and contract (he was on a multi-year deal that would have paid him $19.5 million in 2023) had other teams reluctant to make a deal.

    Now, Hopkins isn’t officially a free agent yet. Although the team announced they’re releasing him, that move won’t be official until 4 p.m. ET on Friday. A team could decide they don’t want to risk him hitting the open market and make a deal. That’s unlikely but not unheard of – something similar happened when the Patriots traded Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

    Still, we’ll work under the assumption that Hopkins is a free agent. He’s been a rumored Patriots target for some time, with a mic’ed up moment between him and Bill Belichick kicking off the speculation in December.

  • While there’s certainly reason for the Patriots to want to sign Hopkins, the bigger question is would he want to sign with New England? Over the past few months Hopkins has openly spoken about wanting to sign with a contender, although those close to him have suggested the Patriots could remain in the mix.

    When it comes to Hopkins and the Patriots, the biggest question is about his relationship with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien has Hopkins’ head coach during his time with the Texans, which ended poorly. Hopkins has since said “there was no relationship” between him and O’Brien in Houston.

    The other thing Hopkins has spoke about often is playing with an established quarterback. Could he be sold on the idea that he’d be the final piece needed to elevate Mac Jones to that level?

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  • The one advantage the Patriots should have in any Hopkins negotiations is money. While Hopkins could afford to take a minimum deal while he’s still being paid by the Cardinals – they still owe him $22 million for this season – a player of his talent level certainly can command more if he so chooses.

    Of the teams Hopkins has been linked too most frequently, most are struggling cap-wise. According to, the Kansas City Chiefs have just over $600,000 in cap space, the Buffalo Bills just under $1.5 million, the Las Vegas Raiders just under $4 million, and the Baltimore Ravens $11.7 million. Meanwhile, the Patriots have $14.1 million to work with.

    Spending relatively significant money on Hopkins is where those issues that prevented a trade from taking place come back though. Hopkins turns 31 next month, and missed 15 games over the last two years due to injuries and a PED suspension.

  • When Hopkins has been on the field though, he’s continued to play at a high level. In his 19 games the last two seasons he’s caught 106 passes for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite playing with backup quarterbacks for most of that stretch, QBs have a passer rating of 106.0 when targeting Hopkins the last two years, which ranks 11th in the NFL among qualified receivers.

    Clearly, Hopkins can help make things easy on a quarterback – something the Patriots should be trying to do for Jones. Can they find a way to put that duo together, and complete the splash wide receiver addition that many expected when the offseason began? It sounds like they’ll at least give it a shot, with Jeff Howe of the Athletic reporting that “the Patriots, who previously checked in on DeAndre Hopkins, are more likely to pursue him now that the contract isn’t as much of a hurdle, per sources. Financial competition is a factor, but there should be a level of interest from New England.”

    It sounds like the Patriots know they’ll have to outbid more immediate contenders if they want to land Hopkins. But it also seems like their mission to add a true ‘WR1′ isn’t over, even as spring practices get underway.

    To this point, the Patriots’ wide receiver room from last year has gone relatively unchanged. They did lose Jakobi Meyers in free agency, but replaced him by signing a similar style player in Juju Smith-Schuster. Their only other additions have been sixth-round picks Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at