New England Patriots

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 27: ide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals lines up during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chargers defeated the Cardinals 25-24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Pretty much since the moment the Arizona Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins last week, rumors and reports have been flying around. Yet a week after his release, the 30-year-old (he turns 31 next week) five-time All-Pro wideout remains a free agent.

Since Hopkins’ release – well, really since December – the Patriots have been viewed as a potential landing spot for Hopkins. They’ve reportedly shown interest in him, the bigger question is will that interest be reciprocated?

  • The latest round of reports from late this week are a mixed bag when it comes to the Patriots. Some suggest they could have a stronger case than expected, while others are discouraging for other reasons.

    Perhaps the biggest plus when it comes to the Patriots is the report of teams that are not interested. On Thursday, ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets aren’t expected to land Hopkins, while the Bills are not “all in” on him as a free agent.

  • A similar report from Tim Graham of The Athletic confirmed Russini’s point about the Bills, noting Buffalo is “a long shot” to sign Hopkins. In addition, Graham relayed from a source that – while publicly Hopkins has expressed a desire to play with Bills quarterback Josh Allen – “one of the league executives, who has communicated with Hopkins’ camp, said his preferred passer won’t supersede his preferred payout.”

    When Hopkins was first reported to be available for trade at the start of the offseason, the initial belief was he hoped to play with an elite quarterback somewhere he would contend for a Super Bowl right away. Those reports surfaced again after he was released. Now though, between some of the league’s top teams dropping out of contention for his services and the report about payout superseding passers, it looks like that may not be the case. It appears Hopkins is looking to get paid above all else.

    For the Patriots, that’s good news. While they’re not viewed as being as close to a Super Bowl as some of those other teams listed, they certainly can compete at the negotiating table. currently has them at just over $14.1 million in cap space, a number which should increase in the coming weeks. Most of the teams most commonly linked to Hopkins are below them on that list (for example, the Chiefs currently have the 31st-most cap space in the league at $652,557).

    While this development opens the door for the Patriots, they’re not alone. Hopkins prioritizing a big contract over all else could bring other teams not previously expected to be suitors for him to the table as well, including one that would not be good news for the Patriots.

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  • That team is the Houston Texans, who traded Hopkins in the spring of 2020 for a package highlighted by a second-round pick. According to Brooks Kubena who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, Hopkins “is interested in re-joining his former team.

    “Hopkins is gauging multiple teams as a free agent, and those include the franchise that once traded him, Kubena adds. “But he spent seven seasons with the Texans after they made him their 2013 first-round pick, and he still has family living in Houston.”

    Why is this bad news for the Patriots? It’s a sign that could answer the biggest unknown about Hopkins’ interest in signing in New England.

  • hopkins

    Sep 10, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien speaks to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

  • Leading up to that 2020 trade, Hopkins relationship with the franchise soured. That came as Bill O’Brien, the current Patriots’ offensive coordinator, had the role of General Manager added to his existing job of head coach. O’Brien was the one who ultimately traded Hopkins to Arizona.

    Not much is known about exactly what happened between Hopkins and O’Brien. During an interview shortly after that trade in 2020, Michael Irvin shared that Hopkins told him that it became a “power struggle” between the two, with O’Brien saying he felt Hopkins had “too much influence over the locker room” and compared him to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

    A month later, Hopkins was asked by Sports Illustrated about his relationship with O’Brien. “There was no relationship,” Hopkins said at the time. “Make sure you put that in there. There’s not a lot to speak about.”

  • The fact Hopkins would entertain a return to Houston could be confirmation that his issues leading up to his departure were not with ownership or the franchise itself, but O’Brien. At the very least, if he did have issues with anybody remaining in Houston, those have been put aside.

    Putting all of this together, the biggest hurdle for the Patriots to clear when trying to pursue Hopkins may not be convincing him to play with Mac Jones, but to play for O’Brien. Could this be done? It’s certainly possible. Hopkins and Bill Belichick seem to have tremendous mutual respect for each other, as was displayed in a clip from Hark Knocks last year.

  • Could Belichick help mend the bridge between Hopkins and O’Brien? Could the Patriots financially make it worth Hopkins while to give the relationship another shot? Most likely, a combination of those two things would need to come into play for the Patriots to get Hopkins to sign in New England.

    If Belichick and the Patriots can make that happen, they’ll be getting the coverage-dictating No. 1 wide receiver the team has lacked for some time. Hopkins played in nine games for the Cardinals last year, and even with sub-par quarterback play caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns. Extrapolated out to a full 17-games, that would be a 121/1,354/6 season.

    Yes, Hopkins missing time last year due to both suspension and injury is concerning. His age may also be a deterrent to some teams although is game – based more on strength and technique than raw speed – shouldn’t fade as fast as the average receiver. But, if he was the perfect player, he wouldn’t be available in early June. This is as good of a chance as the Patriots have had at a true No. 1 target since Tom Brady left. Can they make it happen? With each new report, the picture keeps getting clearer.

  • 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

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