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Cardinals release DeAndre Hopkins after failing to find trade partner

There were rumors the Arizona Cardinals were shopping former All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during the 2023 NFL Draft. No deal materialized, causing the Cardinals to take matters into their own hands Friday.

The team released Hopkins after three seasons. The move comes three years after the Cardinals handed Hopkins a $54.5 million extension.

After starring with the Houston Texans during his first seven NFL seasons, Hopkins was traded to the Cardinals in 2020 in exchange for running back David Johnson. Hopkins' first season in Arizona was excellent. He hauled in 115 passes for 1,407 yards and scored 6 touchdowns. While he failed to make the All-Pro team for the fourth straight season, that performance earned Hopkins a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Hopkins failed to reach those heights the past two seasons. He was limited to 10 games in 2021 due to various leg injuries and missed the first six games of the 2022 NFL season under the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Over those two seasons, Hopkins caught 106 passes for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns in 19 games.

The Cardinals reportedly tried to shop Hopkins this offseason, but could not find a taker. At the draft, team general manager Monti Ossenfort denied those trade rumors and said Hopkins was a Cardinal and that the team was "moving forward."

When healthy, Hopkins is still capable of strong production, but worries about his age, suspension and contract likely scared off potential trade partners. Hopkins was set to make $19.4 million in 2023 and $14.9 million in 2024. The Cardinals will eat $21 million in dead cap money in 2023 after releasing Hopkins. They will not owe Hopkins anything in 2024.

Without that contract weighing him down, Hopkins should draw significant interest on the market. It wasn't long ago Hopkins was part of the "best receiver in the NFL" debate. A return to that level seems unlikely given the past two seasons, but is not out of the realm of possibilities. Even if Hopkins' peak is behind him, he could still provide above-average production, thanks to his strong route running, ability to make contested catches and his excellent hands.

For the first time in his career, Hopkins will be able to choose his landing spot. And given how many awful quarterbacks Hopkins has played with throughout his career, working with an elite passer could be high on his wishlist this offseason.

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