Hopkins is unlikely to join Fields, Bears for several key reasons that originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago.
DeAndre Hopkins’ big game waiting finally ended Friday when the Arizona Cardinals released the star receiver. The Cardinals had been trying to trade Hopkins, but his salary and the draft capital that Arizona reportedly wanted in exchange made him a non-starter.
Hopkins is now free to sign with any team he chooses. While the 30-year-old would make an interesting final piece for the Bears’ rebuilt receiving room, he wouldn’t plan on pre-ordering his Hopkins Bears jersey.
Hopkins recently took part in the “I Am Athlete Podcast” and hinted at what he’ll be looking for in his next destination.
Hopkins wants a quarterback who loves the game and brings his teammates with him, great defense and a stable management situation.
While the rebuilding Bears have a stable management situation under general manager Ryan Poles, they are still in the early stages of rebuilding a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL last season.
Quarterback Justin Fields is an exciting playmaker with his legs, but has yet to prove he can consistently beat teams with his arm. The expectation is that with the revamped offensive line and the addition of wide receiver DJ Moore, Fields will finally have the supporting cast around him to make the necessary leap as a quarterback.
Adding Hopkins to that mix would certainly increase Fields’ chances of going from standout running back to top-tier quarterback who can beat teams with his arm and legs.
But Hopkins also listed the top five quarterbacks he wants to throw the ball at, and Fields couldn’t figure out the list.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen topped Hopkins’ list, followed by Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert.
That’s not to say Hopkins wouldn’t be interested in teaming up with Fields, but the fact that the piece that would most entice Hopkins to come to Chicago, outside of money, didn’t make the roster isn’t a great signing.
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The Bears still have $32.5 million in salary cap space, according to Over The Cap. They can give Hopkins a lucrative one-year contract that the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs can’t without some severe salary-cap gymnastics.
But while the Bears may offer Hopkins a bag of cash, the other expected suitors may give him a chance to rebuild his value as he chases a Super Bowl title. At 30, Hopkins is likely to have another big-money contract in his future if he can show that he’s still capable of being a top 5/10 receiver.
The best way to show teams that he can still take charge of games every Sunday is to play a star quarterback who knows he can deliver the ball consistently and in a system that will maximize his abilities.
Fields is a great deep pitcher. That ability would pair nicely with Hopkins’ ability to make contested catches on the field. But the Bears are a run-first team, throwing the ball an average of 21.2 times per game last season for just under 150 yards per game.
There are reasons to expect a jump from Fields. But Allen, Mahomes, Hurts, Jackson and Herbert are proven staples. Their teams are also made to compete for a Super Bowl this season.
Hopkins would do well to join one of the contenders.
Putting Hopkins in front of Moore would give the Bears a lot of room for error in the passing game. Darnell Mooney could mostly operate out of the slot, and anything Chase Claypool gave them would be a bonus.
Hopkins deserves a phone call. Three-time All-Pro receivers who are still in their prime are rarely on the open market. If one does break out, the Bears have the funds to win a bidding war.
But Hopkins already told us what he’s looking for in his next NFL home, and the 2023 Bears don’t quite meet the criteria.
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