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The pros and cons of the Browns and WR DeAndre Hopkins

The veteran is now a free agent after being released by Arizona. Does a reunion with QB Deshaun Watson in Cleveland make sense?

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has not been shy this offseason in continuing to add talent at certain positions.

Free agency brought defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo, then Berry added defensive tackle Siaki Ika and defensive end Isaiah McGuire in the NFL Draft before swinging a trade for defensive end Za’Darius Smith.

It was a similar story at wide receiver with a trade for Elijah Moore, a free agent signing in Marquise Goodwin, and the drafting of Cedric Tillman.

Berry may be tempted to turn his attention once again to the wide receiver room following today’s news that the Arizona Cardinals have released veteran wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins’ time in Arizona was rocky after arriving from the Houston Texans via a trade in 2020. A 115-catch first season for 1,407 yards with the Cardinals devolved into just a combined 106 catches for 1,289 yards in his last two seasons as he only played 19 total games.

With the Browns looking to add as many weapons as possible on offense for quarterback Deshaun Watson, should Berry “make the call” to Hopkins’ representatives to gauge his feelings about coming to town?

Let’s weigh some of the pros and cons.

Pro: Hopkins has been a three-time All-Pro selection during his 10 years in the league, which includes six seasons where he has exceeded 1,000 receiving yards and three seasons with double-digit touchdown receptions.

Con: His last 1,000-yard season came in 2020 as Hopkins has only played 19 games in total the past two years due to injuries and a league suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Pro: Hopkins and Watson are familiar with each other from their time together with the Texans where they were teammates from 2017 to 2019. Watson took over as the starting quarterback in 2018 and over the next two seasons he connected with Hopkins for 219 receptions, 2,737 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hopkins was a First-Team All-Pro selection in both of those seasons.

Con: Earlier this week, Hopkins was a guest on Brandon Marshall’s I Am Athlete podcast and discussed the five quarterbacks that he would like to play with given the chance: Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills), Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia Eagles), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs), Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens). Watson, notably, was not on the list.

Pro: In the same podcast, Hopkins also said he wants to play for a team with a great defense because he believes defense is the key to winning a championship.

Con: While the Browns should be greatly improved on defense this season with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, arguably the biggest offseason move by the team, whether or not the defense can be classified as “great” is open to discussion.

Pro: Now that Hopkins is a free agent, teams no longer have to be burdened by his contract, which called for him to make $19.45 million this season and $15.9 million in 2024. That is good news for the Browns, who have just a bit more than $7 million in available cap space, according to Over the Cap.

Con: Now that Hopkins is a free agent, he can negotiate with any team that is interested in him, which could result in a situation where his contract, even on a one-year deal, could quickly reach a point where Berry would not be able to make it work in Cleveland. The Ravens, Chargers and Eagles, three of the teams that Hopkins expressed interest in, both currently have more cap space than the Browns, for example.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Pro: With Amari Cooper on the roster, the Browns would not need Hopkins to be the primary focus of the passing game, and their depth would provide some insurance in case Hopkins, who will turn 31 next month, misses time again this season.

Con: Hopkins is used to being the No. 1 wide receiver on his team, and some players can struggle to accept that they may not be the same player in their 30s that they were in their 20s. The Browns have been there before with a wide receiver, would they want to risk going down that road again?

Berry has shown a willingness to continue to add players at key positions, and Hopkins’ successful history with Watson would appear to be a good selling point.

But Hopkins will have additional suitors who can offer him more money and potentially a greater chance at a Super Bowl in 2023, so the idea of Hopkins sporting the Brown and Orange this fall may be more fantasy than reality.