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DeAndre Hopkins released by the Arizona Cardinals

What are next moves for the Buffalo Bills, Hopkins?

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

While finding myself stuck in traffic, news broke this afternoon that the Arizona Cardinals had released wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. After a long, cold spring, a breakup that’s felt like a long time coming has finally been consummated. Hopkins, 30, who spent three seasons in the desert after being traded by the Houston Texans, will now look to continue his NFL career in a new city.

Will the Buffalo Bills sign DeAndre Hopkins? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. There are plenty of reasons to consider, both positive and negative, concerning One Bills Drive’s potential pursuit of Hopkins.

Likely at the forefront of any question involving a move to sign Hopkins deals with the financial cost — to the Cardinals, to Hopkins, and to any potential suitor.

ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter points out that

“(b)y releasing Hopkins now, the Cardinals will save $8.15 million in cap space in 2023 but are set to take a dead cap hit of $22.6 million. Hopkins had been under contract through the 2024 season.”

How would the Bills, so tight up against the 2023 NFL salary cap, afford a player of Hopkins’ caliber, and what would a contract look like for him? Greg Tompsett of Cover1 has a few ideas involving restructures. Tompsett tweeted that by restructuring both cornerback Tre’Davious White (2023 cap savings of $5.88 million) and left tackle Dion Dawkins (2023 cap savings of $6.93 million), Buffalo could work out a structured one-year deal for Hopkins. Per Tompsett, such a contract would resemble 1-year, $15 million, with a $3.8 million cap hit in 2023.

But those aren’t the only players who could help create viable space to sign Hopkins. Tompsett also lists extending defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (2023 cap savings of $4.46 million), safety Micah Hyde (2023 cap savings of $4.58 million), and nickel corner Taron Johnson (2023 cap savings of $4.06 million) as additional places general manager Brandon Beane could look to create room within this year’s salary cap.

But it may not yet be as simple as Brandon Beane going out to convince DeAndre Hopkins to sign on the dotted line — at this point. ESPN NFL reporter Dianna Russini tweeted that Hopkins “could technically still be traded by 4pm (EDT). If not traded, then he’s cut.” Russini went on to state that “Two teams competing to sign him don’t have to compete if you trade, let’s say a late rounder. It’s unlikely but could still happen.”

Mike Giardi ponders what the interest level is for Hopkins at this point. While the Cardinals played hardball in their trade demands leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s clear the rest of the league was willing to wait out what’s come to a head today. But why — cost, Hopkins’ age/ability at this point? Giardi points out that

Buffalo has had interest, but so have the New England Patriots. He goes on to state that “(b)est I can tell, no one believes he is what he once was, and that will be part of the challenge in acquiring the player. A couple of teams I spoke with before the draft believe $$$ will be the driver in this, more so than a ring.

Apart from the financials of bringing in Hopkins, what would his arrival mean for the Bills’ current group of receivers. Stefon Diggs is WR1. He’s the alpha dog. Would Hopkins slide in a WR2? Would Gabe Davis become a very talented WR3, and what about Dalton Kincaid’s target share?

We’ll have much more on this story as it develops. Stay tuned to Buffalo Rumblings for all things Hop-Watch!