The Arizona Cardinals cut DeAndre Hopkins, so where does he end up?

Where does DeAndre Hopkins wind up?

With a rebuild well underway for the Arizona Cardinals, the expected move of moving on from star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins finally happened Friday, with the franchise officially announcing his release. Hopkins’ future in Arizona had been heavily speculated since the end of last season, mainly due to the direction of the franchise mixed with his $30.75 million cap hit, the highest for any receiver in the NFL and seventh overall among any player.

So where does that leave the five-time Pro Bowler? Here are the best fits for the soon-to-be-31-year-old Hopkins after a three-year stay in the desert. One team not appearing on this list is Houston. The Texans were the team that drafted Hopkins and where he played for the first seven years of his NFL career. With winning a Super Bowl in mind, I can’t think of a worse franchise to bet on. However, here are the best choices for D-Hop.

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When it comes to being so close, yet so far from winning a championship, no team exemplifies that more in recent years than Buffalo. Signing someone the caliber of Hopkins could finally put the Bills over the edge instead of losing in the playoffs again.

Lamar Jackson

Let’s keep Lamar Jackson happy! Even with a brand-new contract, drafting Zay Flowers in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft and the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr., Baltimore’s wide receiving corps is still subpar. And here’s one spot where Hopkins can be the No. 1 guy.

Eric Bieniemy

In terms of winning a Super Bowl quickly, this absolutely isn’t the strongest fit. However, with Eric Bieniemy now installed as the team’s offensive coordinator and with a major point to prove around the league, Hopkins would be a major focal point and a major weapon for a younger offense.

Kirk Cousins (l.) and Justin Jefferson

Here’s a pipe dream. Justin Jefferson on one side, Hopkins on the other. What team is stopping that duo? Neither would be completely fulfilled in terms of workload, but it would be fun as heck to watch. Until Kirk Cousins somehow messes it up.

Patrick Mahomes

When it comes to being involved in anything in the NFL, Kansas City isn’t far behind. While the Chiefs don’t need Hopkins to win another Super Bowl, he’d be the best wide receiver on the team. This might be the only team he’d take a major pay cut to join with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. 

Joe Burrow

Why not give Joe Burrow another big-name target? The Bengals would be an interesting fit for Hopkins as they’re a combination of the situations for Buffalo and Kansas City. They need to get over the hump to win a Super Bowl, but not much more has to go right for Cincinnati to get there.

Jerry Jones

Every attractive NFL agent should be considered to go to Dallas because Jerry Jones can spend money. The team hasn’t truly lived up to its billing for an incredibly long time and Hopkins could be what sends Cowboys to the next level. 

Is Caleb Williams the real deal or more fool’s gold from Lincoln Riley?

The presumptive No. 1 pick of the 2024 NFL Draft

Caleb Williams is the 2024 NFL Draft’s most anticipated gem. A perfect, gleaming, status-altering figure who’ll lift the fortunes of the team that drafts him — but also completely out of reach for now. The Washington Commanders, Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints all sit in pole position in most projections, but the Arizona Cardinals trading their third pick in last weekend’s draft for the 12th overall pick and Houston’s first-rounder in 2024 was Kyler Murray’s canary in the coal mine. Caleb Williams is on the clock.

Could Caleb Williams be Kyler Murray’s successor?

Murray tore the ACL in his left knee in early December, one month before Robert Griffin III suffered the same injury during the 2013 playoffs. RG3 was ready for Week 1 of the 2013 season, but from the sounds of it, Arizona is willing to give it half a season. Like RG3 fending off the encroaching Kirk Cousins, Murray is feeling the pressure with a successor potentially breathing over his shoulder.

I’m obviously not referring to Colt McCoy. The former Texas boy wonder has been a professional understudy since 2010. And even when he has played, he’s been one of the NFL’s more fragile quarterbacks.

If the Cardinals take the cautious route, Murray would miss a significant portion of the 2023 campaign. By the time he returns, the Cardinals would be midway into a free slide into the abyss. Waiting for them will be a fork in the road, a few more years of uncertainty around the quarterback they just shoveled resources into or embarking on a new project. Even if Murray returns and flips Arizona’s season around just enough to move them off the No. 1 pick, they have Houston’s 2024 first-round pick in place as a redundancy.

The Lincoln Riley effect?

Williams is worth the misery of a lost season for Arizona. “The best prospect since Andrew Luck” and “ Mahomesian talent” have been the superlatives tossed around, however, we’d be remiss not to pump the brakes on the Caleb Williams hoopla train accelerating toward next year’s draft without acknowledging that Lincoln Riley has created more hit-makers than Quincy Jones. However, there’s a caveat associated with drafting Riley quarterbacks. Once many of them depart his thriving offensive machine and go solo, Riley quarterbacks have been one-hit wonders at the next level. Baker Mayfield was an abject disaster for Cleveland, and then for Carolina. Murray’s improvs on Sunday are adrenaline-inducing, but his preparation and overconfidence in his abilities compare unfavorably to Ricky Bobby.

Riley also coached Hurts for one season, but the bulk of his upgrades as a passer occurred after he was drafted by the Eagles. Williams’ throwing mechanics, ability to throw from different angles, and rip it with zip have already earned him high praise.

The floor on Williams is low, but he could also pan out as the Trae Young to Mahomes’ Steph Curry. That’s the gamble teams will be more than willing to take on his prodigious upside. So far, Williams checks off all the intangibles boxes as well. His equanimity in tense moments mirrors Hurts’ calm composure. In clutch moments, he consistently rises to the occasion. Williams’ 53-yard touchdown to vanquish national powerhouse DeMatha High School in Washington D.C.’s Catholic Athletic Conference championship game as a sophomore was merely the beginning of his mythology.

From there, he matriculated to the Oklahoma Sooners where he was expected to sit behind Spencer Rattler for at least one season, possibly two. Instead, Sooner fans chanting “We want Caleb,” were granted their wish by October of that season. In Riley’s offense, Williams provided Riley with a physical running option who warped defenses with his legs, flashed the potential to fling it down the field with precision and protected the ball.

After replacing Rattler trailing 28-7 to Texas, Williams scored a touchdown on a 4th-and-1 designed run and snatched the job away permanently by spearheading the Sooners to a Red River Rivalry comeback victory. He snatched the ball away from a Sooner running back who was wrapped up by Kansas Jayhawk defenders on a critical 4th-and-1 to save the Sooners. There’s a reason he’d been labeled Superman on the gridiron.

Heisman Trophy winner at USC

From there, Williams re-emerged at USC as an even more proficient passer in his sophomore season, logging a 42:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Even on a hamstring he popped in the first quarter against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Williams registered 363 yards through the air and three touchdowns. This wasn’t your stacked Trojans teams of yesteryear either. Williams nearly carried a roster cobbled together on the college football transfer market to a playoff berth.

However, NFL scouts are natural haters. Williams measures in at 6-foot-1, which isn’t great but leaves him on par with Hurts, and possesses a thick lower body that can sustain the rigors of an 18-week NFL schedule. As long as he doesn’t “shrink” between now and 2024, his size shouldn’t be an issue.

However, if he’s found wanting in that department, UNC’s 6-foot-4 Drake Maye fits the stereotypical requirements for a franchise quarterback and has a buzz of his own. NFL scouts who love embellishing the most infinitesimal defects, will dissect Williams and try to knock him down a peg between now and then. Before Williams’ name is engraved on the No. 1 pick, he’ll be scrutinized more thoroughly over the next year than a presidential candidate in an election year. Williams will be dissected thoroughly over the next year, but he’s aced each test with flying colors during his first two seasons under the spotlight.

Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex

What’s next for Will Levis?

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Will Levis is still on the board. As we’ve noted, despite the pre-draft hype — including an anonymous Redditor saying that the QB was telling friends and family he was going No. 1 overall to Carolina — the former Kentucky signal-caller is still without a pro team.

He may not have to wait much longer. But then again, who knows? Are teams leery of an injury to his toe? Or perhaps his attitude? Or maybe GMs are sickened by the thought of someone putting Hellman’s in their cup of joe.

We know it won’t be Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, or either New York team, amongst a host of others who draft the 6-foot-3, 231-pound signal-caller. But let’s speculate about some other squads who might.

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Image for article titled What's next for Will Levis?

If Kirk Cousins can’t get Minny over the hump, could Levis be the one to?

Image for article titled What's next for Will Levis?
Image for article titled What's next for Will Levis?

There won’t be a need to rush Levis into the starting role unless Geno reverts to his Jets form.

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They’re bound to move on from Ryan Tannehill at some point.

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Are the Falcons that confident in Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke?

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You really think Baker Mayfield is the answer?

Image for article titled What's next for Will Levis?
Image for article titled What's next for Will Levis?

Doubtful, but Trey Lance and Brock Purdy (pictured) are both coming off injuries and the other QB is noted bust Sam Darnold. In the playoffs, the 49ers learned you can never have too many quarterbacks.

Looking for a young, inexpensive albeit injured QB? Call the 49ers

Future star or future bust?

At least the San Francisco 49ers appear to be attempting to keep all of their options open. That is the best way to describe the handling of their starting quarterback situation with Brock Purdy and Trey Lance both recovering from injury, and Jimmy G now in Las Vegas.

The latest report from the 49ers suggests that they might be willing to move on from Lance — the 2021 No. 3 overall pick that cost them two first-rounders to be in the position to draft. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that a few teams have expressed an interest in Lance — and the 49ers are fielding calls from those interested.

San Fran signed Sam Darnold, because if there are some delays in recovery with Purdy and Lance, they assume that the 2018 No. 3 overall pick can be the water for their instant pudding offense. If Kyle Shanahan has truly mastered the structuring of an offense then maybe the 49ers should try and get back some draft capital. John Lynch has already said that he believes Purdy is currently in the lead for the 49ers’ QB1 job.

Then again, the NFL draft is in one week so this is prime lying season for NFL executives. Never forget the reports in 2021 that the 49ers traded up in that draft in order to select Mac Jones. Also, if the 49ers did trade Lance without ever getting a true look at his capabilities as a starting NFL quarterback that would be foolish. They won’t get close to the package that they gave up to get him. There is also the possibility that he could still become a star.

If the 49ers are intent on making a rash and unwise decision, there are some teams that they should stay on the phone with longer than others.

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The 49ers are already down draft capital. They have four selections in the 2023 draft, none until the third round. Sending two first-round picks to the Ravens along with Lance will certainly do damage to future roster-building capabilities.

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All of that being said, imagine Lamar Jackson (pictured) in Shanahan’s offense. While amazing for viewers, it would be the cause of great pain for NFL defensive coordinators. Jackson in the 49ers’ running game and throwing to talented wide receivers in the windows that the 49ers’ offense provides, the results could make the 1999 St. Louis Rams’ offense look like the 2000 Ravens.

Dan Campbell

A team bursting with draft capital and talent at the 49ers’ weakest position group — offensive line. The 9-8 Lions have four picks in the first two rounds, but No. 6 overall may be too low to get one of the best QBs in this year’s draft.

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Maybe the Lions offer the 49ers a piece of their O-line depth along with a draft pick or two. That could result in the Lions finally getting the franchise quarterback they have been searching the earth to acquire for longer than I can remember. [Editor’s note: Longer than our staff has been alive.]

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A team with all of the needs but not a ton in the war chest to offer the 49ers in return. The Saints just got back into the first round of this year’s draft when they received a compensatory selection for Sean Payton (pictured) becoming the Denver Broncos head coach.

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Still, with Chris Olave (pictured), Alvin Kamara, and Demario Davis among other talented players, a quality quarterback could get the Saints back to the playoffs after two seasons away, especially in a weak NFC South. If Lance turns out to be a franchise-changing quarterback the Saints should be willing to absorb any and all costs to make it happen. That includes sending away a first-round pick.

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Also a team with limited draft capital but one that could greatly benefit from a change at quarterback. Kirk Cousins (pictured) is a better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo, but a team with him behind center is still unlikely to win a championship. Lance could be just the shot in the arm that the Vikings need.

Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson

Executing this move could hurt temporarily, but it’s not as if it would cost them two first-round picks to acquire Lance. There will likely need to be one first-rounder in the deal and negotiations would go from there. Also, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the Vikings and 49ers “discussed” Lance at the Scouting Combine.