DeAndre Hopkins trade unlikely to be Bears' answer to No. 1 receiver search

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DHop trade unlikely to be Bears' answer to No. 1 WR search originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Every offseason, hope springs eternal for those NFL teams who fell short of the ultimate goal. This excitement is in overdrive for the Bears thanks to over $100 million in salary cap space and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Bears have many holes to fill on a roster that lacked proven talent in 2022. The trenches have to be a focus for general manager Ryan Poles. But the Bears also lack a true No. 1 receiver who can help quarterback Justin Fields take a big step forward in 2023.

Poles understands the importance of having an elite wide receiver, but that doesn't sound like it will be priority No. 1 for the Bears during a critical offseason.

"I think you can have a collection of guys that work really well," Poles said during his state-of-the-franchise address when asked about the need for a No. 1 receiver. "I think you can have a tight end mixed in with the group. Obviously, you would love a No. 1. I hope one of these guys on our roster, or if someone's available, can develop into that guy. We'll see. But we're always trying to develop into that guy. We'll see. But we're always trying to look for playmakers, and hopefully one of the guys that we have in our locker room now will elevate to that position."

Hours after Poles' press conference, the Score's Jordan Schultz reported that the Arizona Cardinals will look to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason.

Hopkins has two years and $34.36 million left on his current contract. According to Schultz, he is expected to look for a new contract this offseason. Hopkins has a full no-trade clause in his deal, so he would have to approve any deal agreed to by the Cardinals.

The Clemson star has been one of the NFL's best wide receivers for nearly a decade. He still is an excellent high-point, contested catch receiver. Hopkins led the Cardinals with 717 receiving yards in nine games this season.

But he'll be 31 next season and dealt with a nagging soreness in the knee that he had surgery on last offseason, according to recently-fired Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The Bears have the cap space needed to easily absorb Hopkins' contract should they deem him a worthy trade target.

But the Bears just gave up a second-round pick (No. 32 overall) for Chase Claypool. As good as Hopkins is, Poles might not have the appetite to surrender more draft capital for a receiver, especially one entering the back half of his prime.

Eventually, the Bears will need a No. 1 receiver. They saw how Stefon Diggs, A.J. Brown, and Tyreek Hill helped their young quarterbacks blossom after arriving via trade. They understand that adding an unguardable weapon would greatly benefit Fields and an offense that ranked dead last in passing.

"I think it’s, you affect the way a defensive coordinator calls the game," Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said about the impact an elite receiver has on a defense. "And I think Justin affects the way defensive coordinators call the game, and so the more players you have on the field that are like that, I mean that makes it really challenging. And that’s the team … you take what [Brown and DeVonta Smith] did last week, right? You have two receivers going for all those yards for Philly and a quarterback that ran for a bunch of yards, too. When you have dynamic people it makes it really hard for a defensive coordinator to dial in on anything. So having that upper-echelon receiver obviously creates more opportunities for everybody, not just the other receivers."

Trading for an elite receiver almost always costs a first-round pick and is a move made by a team that believes it's close to contending for a title. The Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, and Las Vegas Raiders all viewed their acquisitions as final pieces of a potential championship puzzle.

The Bears are still on the ground floor of a rebuild. By the time the roster is ready to contend, Hopkins likely will be exiting his prime. The price would have to be right for Hopkins to be the Bears' desired trade target.

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It's also likely that Hopkins won't be the only top receiver on the market this offseason.

The New Orleans Saints restructured Michael Thomas' contract in a move that signals they could cut the 30-year-old receiver soon. Thomas has battled injuries over the last three seasons but was arguably the best pass-catcher in the game when he was last healthy in 2019.

Could Mike Evans become available if Tom Brady leaves Tampa Bay and the Bucs opt to rebuild? Will the Bengals be able to pay Tee Higgins?

We didn't think Hill, Brown, or Davante Adams would be dealt at this time last offseason. The market will take shape in the coming months, and there likely will be at least one surprise.

Hopkins, when healthy, is among the best in the game. But he might not be the right receiver for the Bears at this stage of the rebuild.

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