Even if DeAndre Hopkins isn’t keen on working with Bill O’Brien again, he no longer can veto a theoretical trade to O’Brien’s new team.
The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver originally had a no-trade clause in his contract, but that was voided by the six-game PED suspension he received last offseason, according to NFL agent-turned-CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry.
So, if the receiver-needy New England Patriots wanted to trade for Hopkins and reunite him with O’Brien, their new offensive coordinator, Arizona wouldn’t need the wideout’s approval to make that deal. That’s an important detail because Hopkins’ less-than-rosy relationship with O’Brien when both were with the Houston Texans has been viewed as a potential sticking point, though some believe that storyline is overblown.
It’s not clear whether the Patriots are even considering a Hopkins pursuit — Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer recently said Hopkins landing in New England would be a “pretty major surprise” — but the five-time Pro Bowler would be the true No. 1 receiver they’ve lacked in recent years.
Even past his prime at age 30 (31 in June), Hopkins remained productive this season, ranking fourth in the league in catches per game and 10th in yards per game after returning from his suspension in October. Patriots coach Bill Belichick also hasn’t hidden his admiration for Hopkins, comparing him to Hall of Famer Cris Carter and saying he’s “every bit as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against.”
“He’s got tremendous ball skills,” Belichick said. “He catches everything, has great hands, and he’s long so he’s never covered. Even if he’s covered, there’s a place where the ball can be that he can get it and still make the catch. Great coordination on the sidelines, and he doesn’t really look it, but he’s a strong kid. You see him break tackles. He’s a strong kid in terms of creating separation on routes, yards after contact, you know, tough yards like around the goal line or that extra yard for a first down type of thing.
“He’s a very smart football player, very savvy. But his ball skills are at the very elite level with guys that I’ve seen in this league. He’s up there with whoever the top guys are, the Cris Carters of the world and guys like that.”
In his six seasons playing under O’Brien in Houston (2014-19), Hopkins topped 1,100 yards five times, surpassed 100 receptions four times and never finished with fewer than 950 yards despite catching passes from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, T.J. Yates before Deshaun Watson’s emergence in 2018. He’d been an immediate upgrade for a Patriots receiving corps that could lose top target Jakobi Meyers in free agency.
By trading for Hopkins, the Patriots would take on his salaries of $19.5 million for the upcoming season and $14.9 million for 2024. The Cardinals’ new general manager, Monti Ossenfort, is a New England alum, which could help facilitate a potential deal.