Buffalo Bulletin: Trading For DeAndre Hopkins
If the 2022 NFL season taught Buffalo Bills fans anything, it was that our receiver group was not up to par. After Stefon Diggs, the drop is bigger than expected. Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder, Gabriel Davis and more all failed to reach the heights expected of them this season. A variety of contributing factors led to the Bills ranking 2nd-worst in the NFL with 27 dropped passes this season. In order to bring greater consistency to the passing game, Josh Allen needs favourable targets; Ones who won’t drop the ball. Receivers like DeAndre Hopkins.
The DeAndre Hopkins Situation
You see, down in Phoenix, Arizona, big changes are brewing. Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been fired, and GM Steve Keim won’t be returning either. Their QB, Kyler Murray, is set to miss a large chunk of 2023 with a torn ACL, too. Is it any wonder, or any surprise at all, that star WR DeAndre Hopkins wants out? He’s expected to demand a trade this offseason, and the Cardinals are expected to oblige.
It’s a situation worth exploring, for a potential match made in heaven. Should the Buffalo Bills trade for Hopkins? Let’s start with the positives.
Reasons To Trade For Hopkins
There is no doubt that, when on the field, Hopkins is a versatile receiver who has terrorized the NFL for a decade. He would be a significant upgrade to our receiver room, giving Josh Allen a much improved WR2. It would push Gabriel Davis down to WR3, forcing positional depth and expanding the Buffalo Bill’ capabilities in the passing game.
Having this problem taken care of early in the offseason would limit the need to find receiver talent in the draft, and let the team focus on plugging any upcoming holes on defense. We must face it: There will be notable changes to this team this offseason. The sooner the Bills commit to a plan of action, the better they can execute it. Moving fast and getting Hopkins now would be a decisive act, setting the tone early for 2023.
Surprisingly, if they express interest, the Bills would be in a good position to obtain him. No getting stuck in a bidding war this time. Draft capital is a critical resource for us right now, and we’d be able to save it. DeAndre Hopkins has a no trade clause in his contract, which rules out him being traded to a place that’s unfavourable to him, even if they’re willing to give Arizona the farm. He will only waive it for a landing spot that suits him. At his age, he’s looking for a contender. The Buffalo Bills can be that contender.
Over the last two seasons, DeAndre Hopkins has only played in 19 of 34 games. Due to health concerns, and a six-game suspension for PEDs, he missed most practices and wasn’t able to provide value equitable to his contract. That suspension for PEDs came after he was recovering from an MCL injury suffered in 2021. Yes, Hopkins has put a lot of road on those tires; This trend away from healthy seasons isn’t one we expect to change. Not when he’ll be 31 entering 2023.
Cap Crunch & Cash Concerns
Those are just the issues with him getting on the field, but here’s the problem getting him on the team. DeAndre Hopkins is set to make a massive amount of money over the next two seasons, and he knows he’s on his last major contract. Taking a paycut would be unlikely, and he’ll be putting strain on a team that’s currently $20M over the expected salary cap. The Bills could clear as much as $40M with contract restructures, giving us roughly $20M to work with, but it’s tight.
Hopkins is due a $30.75M cap hit this season, which would need to be addressed. His hard cash this year is $19.45M, with another $14.92M due the season after. He’s in a position to try and leverage a more lucrative deal or extension off a potential trade partner if he chose to and, if he does, it may make the situation harder for Buffalo to justify.
Outside of this direct issue, it also complicates a potential extension for Gabe Davis, amongst other players. Jordan Poyer and Tremaine Edmunds, both key pieces on this defense, are also set to hit the open market in March. Would you let both of them walk to afford DeAndre Hopkins? We haven’t even mentioned Jordan Phillips, Shaq Lawson, Devin Singletary, Dane Jackson, Tyler Matakevich, and more. DeAndre Hopkins would be a heavy addition to an already-tight cap crunch. Who do you sacrifice to get him?
The Trade Value
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated projected Hopkins’ trade value to be a Day Two draft pick (2nd/3rd round). If that’s the price we pay, then it would be worth it in terms of draft capital, but there’s more to consider.
Not only would the Buffalo Bills commit to a large contract, they’re losing a valuable rookie contract in a draft class ripe with edge rushers, running backs, and tackles on both sides of the ball. To pay their stars, the Bills need to keep their picks intact and use the cheaper contracts to maintain depth and rotational strength. It’s the foundation of this team’s success thus far, and not something to steer away from.
To wrap up the DeAndre Hopkins trade discussion, the answer seems clear to me:
Going after this player, who’s contract appears to be a burden, who may not see the field often enough to be a difference-maker, and who’s acquisition may cost us foundational members of our team both current and future as well as require us to give up draft capital to obtain, seems like an absurd move.
Hopkins is a great player. One of the best in the NFL, still, despite his health concerns. That does not justify the expense of getting him, and the knock-on effects of such a move. We have young players who contribute week-in and week-out that we can keep in his stead, and retain the capital needed to keep the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl window open for as long as possible.
Still, a move must be made. Something has to improve in the receiving core if the Bills intend to continue to compete. So, what are out options? Let’s look at the alternatives.
If you insist on trading for a proven player, D.J. Moore is a great target. His contract is slightly more manageable, and a restructure and extension is a more amicable long-term answer to the WR problem. Coming off a down year with a team that’s rebuilding, we could obtain him for our late 3rd-round pick (91st overall).
Moore’s age is a huge factor here, as he’ll be only 26 this season. He brings much of what Hopkins would have, but at a reduced cost and a better chance of staying on the field. What’s not to like?
There are a decent number of free agent WRs on the market at the moment, but very few big names. Two plausible options are D.J. Chark and Jakobi Meyers.
Chark is expected to ring up a deal worth $30M over three seasons, and that works out pretty well for Buffalo. He’s 26, and has impressed lately with sub-par QB play. He makes sense as a long-term answer out wide.
Meyers is a riskier choice with a huge potential payoff. He’s expected to sign a deal worth up to $50M over four years this March, but many teams may not be willing to put that sort of cash up for a player some believe is unproven. If he’s still available in the second wave of free agency, the Bills should pounce.
This is the most favourable option, as it’s cost effective and long-term. It’s also the least definite. The Buffalo Bills aren’t in position to take home a top-tier WR prospect, but they could get the 4th/5th best receiver on the board if they feels it’s the right investment.
Enter Kayshon Boutte, out of LSU. He’s got the natural athleticism that the Buffalo Bills always look for, and brings great ability to make plays after the catch; That’s something we’ve been missing for years. We know Diggs can do it all, but giving him a speedy threat who can play every down on the other side of the field could open up the playbook further for Josh Allen.
Another few prospects for your consideration? Josh Downs, Rashee Rice, Zay Flowers.
Trading for DeAndre Hopkins may be a pipe dream, but we can expect changes to this WR room this offseason. What they Buffalo Bills will do remains to be seen.
Like this piece? Check out the previous Buffalo Bulletin on the end of Jordan Poyer’s tenure in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bulletin on Buffalo Fanatics is a weekly editorial by Iestyn Harris. Check back regularly for hot topics, riveting discussion, and, occasionally, some actual insight.
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