Tennessee Titans should want DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins might not want the Titans in return
Let the rumors recommence.
The Arizona Cardinals released five-time All Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, putting a superstar-caliber pass catcher on the market for receiver-needy teams like the Tennessee Titans. In the build-up to April's NFL draft, speculation swirled about the Titans trading for Hopkins in a package deal to move up to the No. 3 pick in the first round, a match that never came to fruition.
At first glance, Hopkins and the Titans are a perfect pair. The Titans need a receiver. Hopkins plays a physical brand of football that fits what the Titans like to do. Hopkins' best years came with the Houston Texans under the tutelage of former Texans assistant Tim Kelly, now the Titans' offensive coordinator. And Titans coach Mike Vrabel was on the Texans' staff for four of Hopkins' years in Houston, as was Titans quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Charles London.
The fit and familiarity are there. The logistics just don't make very much sense.
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For once, the Titans' biggest issue might not be money. Any contract Hopkins signs will likely be for anywhere between $15 million to $20 million a year. When the Baltimore Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr., to a one-year, $15 million contract in April, it was structured in such a way that the Ravens will reportedly only count $3.9 million of that salary against the salary cap.
Per Over The Cap, the Titans have an effective salary cap space around $6.4 million. The details of rookie contracts with first-rounder Peter Skoronski and second-rounder Will Levis still need to be worked out, but even still, it wouldn't be impossible for the Titans to sign Hopkins and stay under the cap.
It's unlikely, sure. Maybe the Titans would have to restructure or release another veteran such as safety Kevin Byard or quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But even without a roster move, NFL teams have pulled off more impossible feats of working around contracts than this would require.
The bigger issue is what Hopkins wants. This isn't a trade negotiation anymore. Hopkins is a free agent and gets to choose where he wants to play. In recent media appearances, Hopkins has talked about how above all else he wants to play somewhere with a winning culture and listed teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills as his preferred destinations.
The Titans have won a lot of games in recent years. But they don't have a proven, top-tier quarterback like the Chiefs, Ravens, Eagles, Chargers or Bills and don't have the same playoff track record as the Chiefs, Bills or Eagles. Hopkins' familiarity with the Titans' coaches could close the gap a little, but if Hopkins is saying he wants to play for teams ready to win now, it's hard to see him choosing to play for a team like the Titans with the fifth-worst chances of winning the Super Bowl this year per the ESPN Football Power Index.
From the Titans' side, there's also a concern. The Titans invested significant capital in veteran receivers the past two offseasons, trading for Julio Jones in 2021 and Robert Woods in 2022. Both of those investments ended up hurting the team more than helping and were proof that adding a receiver on the other side of 30 can backfire.
Add all this up, and it's tough to foresee the Titans landing Hopkins. He absolutely makes the roster better. He gives Tannehill (or Levis or Malik Willis) an experienced, dominant option on the outside. But at the price he commands and given what he's looking for in a team, Hopkins and the Titans might not be the perfect match they seem.
Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Why WR DeAndre Hopkins is (and isn't) a good fit with Tennessee Titans