The hunt for the Patriots’ clear WR1 has been going on for quite a few years now, with many names being touted as possible trade or free-agency candidates during that time.
A few top names have been said to be potential targets for New England to make moves for, but one player continues to be the most discussed of them all; DeAndre Hopkins.
The receiver and the Patriots have been connected in the past, as Bill Belichick was in contact with the Texans in 2017, attempting to make a trade for Hopkins. Obviously, that trade never happened, and since then, that’s as close as things have gotten between the player and the team.
Hopkins wasn’t traded until four years later, when he essentially demanded his way out of Houston. He landed with the Cardinals in 2020 and has continued to be atop the league with his performance. But with all the drastic changes going on with the Cardinals organization, and because Hopkins has already earned all of his guaranteed money, he’s allegedly looking for a way out of Glendale and to a new team.
He’s remained a fan favorite to land in New England next season, with much of the excitement heightening after the video of Belichick and Hopkins’ pre-game interaction was released in November.
A lot of the hope for a Hopkins trade sunk when it was announced that Bill O’Brien would be returning as the offensive coordinator. Because he was the head coach of the Texans when Hopkins was there, and they reportedly had a tense relationship, the idea of the receiver making his way to New England was essentially shut down for good.
But NFL insider Ian Rapoport doesn’t believe the door is closed.
During an appearance this week on NBC Sports Boston, Rapoport suggested that Hopkins and O’Brien could make it work and doesn’t believe the receiver would immediately turn down the idea of going to the Patriots.
"“I don’t care about any of that. Bill O’Brien is edgy with everyone. But he’s also a professional, and he also doesn’t call the shots. So, could they coexist? Like, I don’t see why not. Bill O’Brien, just like Bill Belichick, likes really good players. I think DeAndre Hopkins likes really good teams. I could see that working if that is a situation they decide to get into.”"
None of this matters at the end of the day since Hopkins’ contract contains a no-trade clause, meaning he controls where he goes. If the Patriots do make an offer and he rejects it, that’s likely an indication of how he feels about working with O’Brien again.
It will be interesting to see if Belichick makes a big move for a receiver in free agency, particularly with Jakobi Meyers hitting the market and appearing to be the best available of the bunch.
Will he make a trade like the Eagles did for A.J. Brown? Or what the Dolphins did to acquire Tyreek Hill? Typically, the answer would be absolutely not. But with the heat put on him by Robert Kraft, anything is possible this offseason.