DeAndre Hopkins is still a free agent. We’re now on Day 4 of Hop-Watch, after the five-time All-Pro was let go by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, May 26. Long before his release, the Buffalo Bills were one of a select few key teams rumored to have interest in adding him to their roster. Likewise, Hopkins placed the team and specifically quarterback Josh Allen among his own select group of teams and players he’d most want to play for/with moving forward.
But we’ve seen such an endless barrage of news about Hopkins’ status, his whereabouts, and his thinly veiled tweets clearly designed to feed the frenzied NFL cycle that it’s difficult to know what’s both true and relevant. Rarely is real life a mirror image of Madden.
So just how interested in adding DeAndre Hopkins is general manager Brandon Beane and One Bills Drive? According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, it would appear all parties in Orchard Park, NY are very interested — and have been since before the NFL Draft.
The Cardinals were giving any teams who wanted to talk to Hopkins permission to do so. Two teams that got such permission, the Chiefs and Bills, spoke to Hopkins and Omni, and those two were the only two that engaged Arizona in trade talks. So the interest in giving up a pick or two to get Hopkins was pretty tepid. — Albert Breer
As noted in the above quote, the Cardinals gave NFL teams permission to talk with Hopkins and his financial advisor Saint Omni. Per Breer, the Bills were one of just two teams (Kansas City Chiefs being the other) that took advantage of such an opportunity to speak with Hopkins. This means the Bills (and Chiefs) were willing to consider giving up draft capital to make a trade for Hopkins — and it also appears his salary wasn’t the deterrent most have figured. Of course, Beane and Buffalo ultimately passed on trading for Hopkins, and the Cardinals’ bluff was called.
Thirty-one teams knew the Cardinals were over a barrel, and all passed rather than join a party full of difficult financial decisions by team also intent on receiving draft picks. The Cardinals were never going to pay him $19.45 million to play in the desert this season. I suspect no team would have stepped up to that plate. Perhaps the Bills would have orchestrated a trade if the financials of it all were more team friendly. But to give up draft picks and pay such an exorbitant salary? Many believe with Hopkins now a free agent, that scenario is set to play out. But not so fast.
We’ve heard more recently that Hopkins may not be willing to settle for a lower deal, just to play for a contender. Following the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to sign Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year contract with $15 million in guaranteed money, it’s believed Hopkins’ opinion is that he deserves more money given the fact he actually played during the 2022 NFL season. [Reminder: Hopkins served a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) Policy.]
If the Bills hope to sign Hopkins, they’ll need to restructure contracts of other key players, further pushing the piggy bank down the road. Eventually that bank will crack, and Beane won’t be able to fit everyone back into a repaired fund. The Bills have $1.646,088 million in available cap space for 2023. Those figures change if and when offensive tackle Brandon Shell signs a deal with the team.
As noted here when Hopkins’ release was announced: Yes, the Bills could restructure contracts among left tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Tre’Davious White, or extend contracts for players such as defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, safety Micah Hyde, and nickel corner Taron Johnson. Maneuvering money around for any of those players would allow the Bills to sign DeAndre Hopkins to an incentive-laden deal. But it’s not specifically clear at this point what a deal will need to resemble to convince Hopkins to sign on the dotted line.
With DeAndre Hopkins set to turn 31 a week from now, there’s no guarantee that he gets a shiny new contract to play for his third NFL team. There are teams with enough ability to adeptly perform the cap gymnastics required to meet Hopkins’ likely demands. It’s possible the New York Jets or Dallas Cowboys find it too irresistible to remain on the sidelines. But it’s still too soon to count out Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills.