So, let’s talk about DeAndre Hopkins. Yes, he’s out of Arizona and the Arizona Cardinals are about to eat somewhere in the neighborhood of $22 million in salary cap space. From a salary cap standpoint it doesn’t make much sense to release him this year, but to have him cleaned off the books for next year is worth it. The Cardinals have an atrocious roster and uttering the “T” word (for tanking, the inelegant variety) probably isn’t a stretch with the Hopkins release. Hopkins has made a list of who he wants to catch passes from and for all intents and purposes, it looks like he wanted out of Arizona. Trades were rumored during the draft but nothing really came out of it. It doesn’t help that a team owed him $22 million. The Cardinals would probably get a 3rd round pick at-best with that huge hit on a trade partner’s salary cap space.
Short answer: No.
Now I know a few of you have argued that the 49ers could get him on the roster and be productive. Feel free to jump in here and argue why. I’ll tell you it doesn’t make much sense.
Let’s start with productivity. You’re putting Hopkins on a roster that has Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. We all know how good Hopkins is and what he’s done to the 49ers, but how exactly do you use him when those two are on the wide receiver depth chart? Worse, who do you bump at roster cuts for Hopkins? They have Danny Gray going into his second season, Jauan Jennings making a name for himself, and they just drafted Ronnie Bell in the 2023 NFL Draft. So there’s five receivers right there. Samuel and Aiyuk in particular have experience in Shanahan’s system and have shown they are lethal. So where could Hopkins fit here? I’m not saying he wouldn’t help, but for what he’d ask for in a salary with that depth chart it’d be diminishing returns. He’s not the same wide receiver you saw light things up with the Houston Texans due to father time either.
Speaking of salary, The San Francisco 49ers are going to have some big, big decisions to make in the 2023 offseason regarding the salary cap. They have Nick Bosa’s extension looming as well as Aiyuk’s. If they manage to get both signed to long-term deals that is going to take cap wizardry on its own.
They have around $9 million in cap space. A number that should go down as the season progresses with transactions. Every single penny there is going to be needed for long-term extensions and taking care of their own. While I doubt Hopkins gets anything close to his salary in Arizona (again, 31 other teams weren’t interested in that contract), he’s not going to come to a team for league minimum, and the 49ers can’t afford $8 or $9 million/year with the aforementioned contracts extending.
Finally, how do you bring him in when someone on the team has publicly called him “Steroid boy”? I know we could treat this like the Richard Sherman signing back in 2018, but there were two reasons why the 49ers brought Sherman in that aren’t relevant now:
1: They had money
2: They wanted Sherman to be a coach for the backfield and bring a veteran presence to the locker room/defensive backfield. Which he did. The 49ers have their own veterans to do what Sherman was doing.
This of course is in addition to the fact Sherman still had a few years left in the tank.
All things considered, Hopkins just doesn’t fit in San Francisco. It’d be diminishing returns with wide receivers, it potentially bumps one of their home grown products off the roster, and some of the things potential teammates here has to not sit well.
For those of you who don’t even want to discuss Hopkins, feel free to use this as the “What remaining free agents should the 49ers pursue” and we’ll argue with you.