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Browns, DeAndre Hopkins rumors: ‘Dark horse’ and more on what we are hearing

Hopkins release has reignited Browns, Deshaun Watson conversations for earlier this offseason

Houston Texans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

When the 2023 NFL offseason kicked off, the idea that the Cleveland Browns would acquire WR DeAndre Hopkins to reunite him with QB Deshaun Watson was a strong possibility. Since then, the Browns traded for Elijah Moore, signed Marquise Goodwin and drafted Cedric Tillman. Along with Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Bell, Cleveland’s receiver group now seems set.

Then Hopkins was cut by the Arizona Cardinals and everything is now on the table.

While the Browns have a number of receivers capable of playing, Hopkins is a high level player even if he is not a top five receiver in the NFL. In a lot of ways, Cooper and Hopkins are both 1B type receivers but are no longer 1A level players in the NFL.

Pairing the two, along with more and Tillman for sure, would be exciting especially given his history with Watson. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler listed Cleveland as a dark horse candidate for Hopkins services:

Hopkins has preexisting chemistry with Deshaun Watson — they played together in Houston from 2017 to 2019 — and pairing him with Amari Cooper would deepen the intrigue in the AFC North. Cleveland GM Andrew Berry has been very aggressive this offseason in bolstering the defense, and signing Hopkins would be a nod to maximizing Watson’s window.

I have been told that the Browns do have some interest in Hopkins but it is complicated.

First, as noted by Pro Football Talk, Hopkins doesn’t have an agent and could be expecting a salary similar to the one he just was released from:

As one source explained it to PFT on Saturday morning, Hopkins currently expects to secure a significant contract on the open market. The problem, however, is that no one wanted to trade for his prior deal, which paid less than $20 million this year.

If a team thought he was worth that money, trading a late round pick to the Cardinals would have benefited both teams involved. None did so Hopkins could be waiting awhile to get a hefty deal. His belief in his ability to sign a big contract could be buoyed by the deal Odell Beckham Jr. signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

Second, if Cleveland were to sign Hopkins it would most likely look to move on from either Cooper or Peoples-Jones depending on a variety of variables including trade compensation for their receiver, how many years Hopkins new deal would run and the overall cost of that deal.

Finally, while GM Andrew Berry is a master with the salary cap, the Browns are cautious about continually bringing in players from outside of the organization that take up more and more cap space. This would be especially noticeable if Berry trades homegrown DPJ to make room for Hopkins instead of signing the team’s former sixth-round pick to a much lower contract.

Summing up:

  • Hopkins is now a free agent
  • Cleveland has interest in Hopkins
  • Hopkins interest in the Browns is unknown (he hasn’t listed them any time talking to media)
  • Signing Hopkins would likely lead to dealing Cooper or DPJ
  • Getting good value, thinking about 2-3 seasons and not just one plays a role in all of the decisions
  • Odds are low but not zero that Hopkins winds up in the orange and brown

Projecting what a deal could look like (Pure speculation)

Hopkins signs a 3 year contract (with the team being able to get out after two) for close to $40 million ($28 guaranteed) with incentives up to $46-48 million

Donovan Peoples-Jones traded to the Carolina Panthers for a compensatory third-round pick (will likely be a 4th rounder)

  • What is your interest in Hopkins if it means Cooper or DPJ are traded?
  • What contract would you offer Hopkins?
  • What trade compensation do you think Berry could get for Cooper/DPJ?
  • Where do you think Hopkins ends up signing?