Will Patriots pursue DeAndre Hopkins after Cardinals release? Here are latest reports

Will Pats pursue new free agent DeAndre Hopkins? Here's what we know originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A plot twist has been introduced to the NFL offseason just before Memorial Day weekend.

The Arizona Cardinals announced Friday they have released five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, making him an unrestricted free agent and ending his three-year tenure in the desert.

So, where will Hopkins land next -- and are the New England Patriots a realistic suitor? The Athletic's Jeff Howe reports the Patriots are "more likely" to pursue Hopkins now that he doesn't carry a $ 30.8 million cap hit for the 2023 season.

New England reportedly showed interest in Hopkins back in March, but the idea of giving up draft capital in a trade and absorbing his contract made a deal seem unlikely. Now that Hopkins can be had on a more favorable contract in a non-trade situation makes him more appealing, especially for a Patriots team that could use a game-changing playmaker at wide receiver.

As our Phil Perry points out, however, not everyone in New England is aligned on how much the 30-year-old has left in the tank.

Hopkins was unstoppable in his first season with the Cardinals in 2020, racking up 115 catches for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns. He's missed 15 games in the last two seasons, though -- including six due to a suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy -- and his three touchdowns in 2022 were his fewest in a season since his rookie year.

Hopkins is still a talented enough player that he should have plenty of suitors, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs seemingly among them. The question for the Patriots is whether they value Hopkins more than their AFC competitors and are willing to outbid teams for Hopkins' services.

That answer likely depends on a number of factors: what new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien thinks of Hopkins after their checkered past in Houston; what the team thinks of its current pass-catching group of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry; and most importantly, where head coach Bill Belichick stands on Hopkins' current talent.

But at the very least, it sounds like Hopkins is on New England's radar.