The trade for Marquise Brown gained extra importance after it was announced Monday that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games of 2022 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
It is a harsh blow for the Cardinals. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has reiterated often this offseason how much the offense suffered when Hopkins was missing with injury last season, and now he will be absent for a third of this season.
"In my 10-year NFL career, I have never tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs," Hopkins wrote. "To learn that my November test came back with trace elements of a banned substance, I was confused and shocked. I am very mindful of what I put in my body and have always taken a holistic approach, so I am working with my team to investigate how this could've happened.
"But even as careful as I have been, clearly I wasn't careful enough. For that, I apologize to Cardinals fans, my teammates, and the entire Cardinals organization. I never want to let my team down. I fully intend to get to the bottom of this. As soon as I have more information I will share it."
According to the NFL's PED policy, a suspension of six games is warranted for a positive test of an anabolic agent.
Hopkins had only missed two games in his entire career going into last season. Then he missed three games with a hamstring injury and the last four games -- and the playoff game -- with a knee injury. Now he won't return until Week 7.
Hopkins, who continues to rehab from his knee surgery, will still be able to participate in offseason work, in training camp and in preseason games.
The Cardinals have been through this before. Cornerback Patrick Peterson missed the first six games of the 2019 season, also for violating the league's PED policy. Under that previous CBA, Peterson got four games for the positive test and two more for a violating the masking agent policy.
Based on his scheduled $6.65 million salary, Hopkins would lose $2.22M because of the suspension. He would also be fined a pro-rated portion of his roster and signing bonus money, which would add another $3 million to the financial penalty as well, according to spotrac.com.
Because of his injuries, Hopkins had career-lows in catches (42) and yards (572), although he had eight touchdowns in half-season, and might've set a career-high in that category if he had been healthy.
His absence places more pressure on Brown, who had his first 1,000-yard season last year in Baltimore and was just saying after the trade how excited he was to play with Hopkins and how Hopkins would take attention off him. Now Brown figures to get that attention, although the Cardinals do have bigger plans for Rondale Moore, have brought back A.J. Green, and will have a full season of tight end Zach Ertz.
The 2022 schedule comes out on May 12, which will allow the Cardinals to know what matchups Hopkins will miss.