Tim Kelly

There’s a pretty good chance the DeAndre Hopkins of 2023 is not the DeAndre Hopkins of yesteryear.

The three-time All-Pro wide receiver is on the verge of turning 31 years old, has been limited to 19 games over the past two years, and has seen his production drop as a result.

All that said, the Titans at least have to do some serious tire-kicking now that Hopkins is a free agent, the result of the Arizona Cardinals releasing him on Friday.


Because the Titans’ wide receiver room, until proven otherwise, is one of the weakest in the league. In fact, it’s dead last, according to ESPN’s most recent positional unit rankings.

Is there a chance things change this year, even without upgrading personnel? Absolutely. Treylon Burks, the Titans’ 2022 first-round pick, appears in better condition and better frame of mind, ready for a jump in production. Kyle Philips, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2022, should be a contributor if he can stay healthy. Chris Moore may still have some upside after a career year in 2022. Even Colton Dowell, the Titans’ 2023 seventh-round pick, has an intriguing skill set.

Still, it’s a group that’s heavy on hope and potential, not so much a track record. The Titans’ returning wide receivers combined for just 69 catches, 962 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Hopkins, on the other hand, is the kind of proven commodity that doesn’t often get dropped on the open market in the middle of the offseason. A 10-year vet, Hopkins has piled up 853 catches for 11,298 yards (13.2-yard average) and 71 touchdowns in his career.

There had been plenty of speculation earlier in the offseason the Titans might have an interest in trading for Hopkins. But that always seemed like a longshot, considering the Titans would have had to give up draft capital (as they did in trades for Julio Jones and Robert Woods) and take on Hopkins’ salary of $19.5 million in 2023.

Those potential hurdles are now by the wayside, courtesy of the Cardinals’ decision to release Hopkins.

There are reasons for caution, as illustrated by the above examples of older wide receivers Jones and Woods, neither of whom paid the hoped-for dividends here.

Like those receivers, Hopkins comes with recent baggage. He played just 10 games in 2021, the result of a nagging hamstring injury and a torn MCL. Hopkins then missed the first six games of 2022 because of a PED suspension, and he missed the last two games of the season with a “flare-up” of his previous knee injury.

Hopkins also averaged only 11.2 yards per reception last season, tied for the lowest of his career. His three touchdown catches — again, in nine games — were his lowest since his rookie year of 2013.

So there are reasons for any potential buyer to beware.

Still, given the Titans’ position — and given Mike Vrabel’s draft-weekend comments about the team potentially adding talent at wide receiver during the offseason — this is a situation Tennessee has to aggressively explore.

Would signing Hopkins come easy?


The Titans currently have the 18th-most cap room in the league at $10.6 million, per Over the Cap, so the team would need to get creative — either altering current contracts or crafting a deal that pays much more in 2024, when the Titans have significant cap room.

Convincing Hopkins to come to Nashville would be difficult as well, considering the Titans had the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing attack last season, averaging a less-than-robust 171.4 yards per contest. In a recent I Am Athlete podcast appearance, Hopkins listed the five quarterbacks he’d most like to catch passes from, per ESPN: Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert.

It just so happens the defending Super-Bowl champion Chiefs are one of the more receiver-needy teams in the league.

One potential wildcard the Titans could use as a selling point: When new Tennessee offensive coordinator Tim Kelly held that same role in Houston in 2019, Hopkins put up huge numbers for the Texans — catching 104 passes for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns.

Might a reunion with Kelly — and a fat new contract — be enough to interest Hopkins in coming here?

It still seems like a bit of a Hail Mary, but it’s one the Titans need to throw.