The offseason brings with it speculation. That's natural. For the Cardinals, that starts with who the next GM and coach will be, because it doesn't get any more front-burner than that.
But after that? Right now? It seems like what will happen with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is next in line -- and it doesn't slow when the man in the middle of speculation posts on Instagram on Wednesday a picture of himself in uniform with the simple caption "Forever grateful ..."
That could mean so many things, and of this point I'm betting Hop is very aware. He knows it is cryptic given the circumstances. But it could be seen as a kind of farewell (although Cardinals things still are on his social media, so nothing has beens scrubbed.) In a lot of ways, Hop speculation is moot until the Cardinals figure out their GM and/or coach, because the thoughts of whomever is hired in those spots figure to have the final decision on what could happen with Hopkins. But after a knee issue was apparently the reason Hopkins was absent the final two weeks, what can happen?
These are the facts right now:
- Hop is the Cardinals' best receiver and probably their best offensive player
- His salary in 2023 is $19.5 million and his cap number is more than $30 million
- His dead cap number, if he were to be traded, is $22.6M
- He has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he has the right to scuttle a deal if he doesn't like it
- He has no more guaranteed money in the last two years of his contract
- He was frustrated in the Patriots game after he had just one catch playing with Trace McSorley
- There are a ton of unknowns about the Cardinals for next year, including offensive system and what quarterback will start the season
- Without Hopkins, the wide receiver corps would have a big hole to fill, as was seen this season during his six-game suspension
Playing only nine games, Hopkins still led the team in receiving yards (717) and his 64 catches was second to Hollywood Brown's 67. You figure Hopkins is going to want a new contract so he can make sure he can guarantee his money. You also figure he'd like to know what quarterback might be throwing to him, and knowing how we do that Hopkins wants to be in the Hall of Fame some day (and that it is predicated on a QB getting him the ball), making sure he's in a good QB spot means something too.
Again, there are large decisions that have to be made before Hopkins becomes the main discussion. There are pros and cons for either side of the Hopkins keep-or-move discussion. But this is also the kind of discussion that happens when a team undergoes an overhaul at the top.