DeAndre Hopkins quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s top wide receivers in his time with the Houston Texans and looked poised to continue that with the Arizona Cardinals.
Hopkins’ top-level production continued during his first season in Arizona, but things went south over the next season-and-a-half to the point that he was ultimately released.
What went wrong for Hopkins with the Cardinals that led to his release and eventual signing with the Tennessee Titans?
Why Did Arizona Release DeAndre Hopkins?
The Cardinals originally acquired Hopkins from the Texans in a March 2020 trade that saw them ship off running back David Johnson and a pair of draft picks in exchange for Hopkins and a fourth-round pick.
At the time, the move looked poised to bolster an Arizona squad looking to contend for the playoffs. It helped in the 2020 season as the Cardinals improved to 8-8, and Hopkins earned his fourth straight Pro Bowl nod after catching 115 passes for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns.
They again improved to 11-6 in 2021, but Hopkins caught just 42 passes for 572 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 appearances as a hamstring injury and then a torn MCL kept him from playing 15+ games for the first time in his career.
He caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns across nine appearances in 2022. He was suspended for the first six games of the season after failing a drug test, then did not make himself available for the final two games of Arizona’s disappointing 4-13 campaign as its playoff hopes were out the window.
Although the injury issues were beyond Hopkins’ control, his suspension and essentially quitting on the team late in the 2022 season likely rubbed the organization the wrong way.
Not attending voluntary offseason workouts in May 2023 could have been another pain point for the Cardinals as well, despite public comments to the contrary.
Arizona reportedly looked for trade partners to take on Hopkins in the offseason but ultimately was unable to find one and elected to outright release him and end the sides’ three-year partnership.
“Yeah, just all the factors that were in play, we just felt that it was the best thing for the team to play with who we have,” Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon told reporters at the time.
The move ultimately allowed the Cardinals to get Hopkins’ contract off the books and potentially tank for a better draft pick, with Kyler Murray set to miss at least half of the season. It also gave Hopkins a chance to take his talents to a situation that better fit him and ultimately appeared to be the best move for both parties.
Hopkins’ Resurgence in Tennessee
Hopkins seems to have found new life since signing with the Titans in July. The 11th-year wide receiver is up to 31 catches for 504 yards and three touchdowns through Tennessee’s first seven games despite inconsistent quarterback play between Ryan Tannehill, Will Levis, and Malik Willis.
Tannehill is 98 of 158 for 1,128 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions through six appearances in 2023, though he went down with an injury in the Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He was replaced by Willis, who was somewhat serviceable.
MORE: Tennessee Titans Depth Chart 2023
Levis then made his pro debut in starting Sunday’s 28-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He went 19 of 29 for 238 yards and four touchdowns as Hopkins hauled in four passes for 128 yards and three scores.
Although it seems unlikely that Levis can maintain that level of performance, continued strong play from him would certainly bode well for Hopkins.
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