The Browns can offer Hopkins money, just not as much as some teams, a chance to reunite with quarterback Deshaun Watson, a connection that worked well with the Houston Texans, and a defense that is expected to be on the rise with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz calling the shots.
That all sounds good and makes for decent content on talk radio and various media sites, but it doesn’t answer the key question of what does Hopkins want?
Is it money? Hopkins will be turning 31 this week, and while that is not old the clock is ticking on how much money he can earn in the NFL.
Is it an opportunity for a title? Hopkins has been in six playoff games in his career, and just one since 2019, and only come out on the right side of the scoreboard twice.
Is it the weather? Hopkins has played in Houston and Arizona, both of which play their home games in a dome. Bad weather has an impact on the passing game, and while the frozen tundra days of Cleveland football may be a bit overstated, not everyone is mentally built to play in wintery conditions.
Those are just some of the questions that every player weighs as a free agent and Hopkins is no different. They are also the questions that former player Ross Tucker examines in his latest article at The 33rd Team.
Chase a Super Bowl or chase a ? @RossTuckerNFL on the factors of DeAndre Hopkins' free agency decision and what team makes the most sense for the 5x Pro Bowl WR— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) June 5, 2023
As Tucker points out, if Hopkins wants a ring, then teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills would be attractive. But if he wants to be paid, he would have to take far less given that both the Chiefs and Bills currently have just a little more than $1.2 million in available cap space.
The issue with chasing a ring, according to Tucker, is that winning is not guaranteed in the NFL:
The problem is that there are no guarantees. Look at the playoffs every year and the number of games that could go one way or the other based on any number of plays in each contest. Is Hopkins really going to help the Bills get over the top when they’ve only even made the AFC Championship Game once with Josh Allen as their quarterback?
Even the Chiefs, who have the best odds, are far from a sure thing. The chances of them winning it back-to-back aren’t great. It’s been 20 years since the last time a team pulled that off (the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots).
If Hopkins is only focused on getting paid, then his former team the Texans ($18.72 million in cap space) and the Browns ($13.86 million) could catch his attention.
Cleveland is also positioned to possibly present the best of both worlds to Hopkins - a contract fitting what he believes he is worth and a roster that presents a realistic chance to win. Even if he is a bit skeptical, if there are enough numbers on the contract then Hopkins could talk himself into the Browns as a playoff threat, according to Tucker:
For one, it’s funny how the more money a team offers a player, the more they can see a path to that team having a chance to win it all. Frankly, with the Browns, it is not that far-fetched.
They still have the core of a team that won a road playoff game a couple of years ago, including most of the rock-solid offensive line.
They also should get their first full season of Deshaun Watson who, by all accounts, was a top-five quarterback in the NFL his last full season with the Texans in 2020 before sitting out 2021 and being suspended most of the 2022 season. Hopkins is familiar with what Watson is capable of from their time together in Houston.
Tucker makes some good and reasonable points. He goes off the rails a bit at the end in claiming that the Browns are desperate to add Hopkins, which is a bit debatable, but general manager Andrew Berry is certainly not opposed to adding talent at the right price.
For now, it is all just speculation given that no one other than Hopkins knows what he is looking for in his next team - money or a chance at a Super Bowl?
But if the answer turns out to be “why not both?”, then the Browns may truly be in the best position to give Hopkins what he is searching for in free agency.