Borders worked out for the Falcons on Monday, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. This will be team No. 11 for Borders, who is moving toward Josh Johnson journeyman territory — at least for volume. A former Raiders UDFA, Borders played in one game last season — with the Bears — after a 12-game 2021 (in Chicago and Arizona). Borders’ most notable NFL stint came when he started five games for the eventual AFC South champion Titans in 2020. Borders has also caught on with Buffalo, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, Pittsburgh and Miami.
A 2019 UDFA, Crockett had been with the Broncos since 2020. He served as backfield depth in Denver, but all of his playing time came in 2021 — mostly on special teams. Crockett’s career encountered a speedbump during training camp last year; the Missouri alum suffered a torn ACL.
As teams around the league begin minicamp, the DeAndre Hopkinsfree agency watch continues. The list of potential suitors for the veteran wideout has fluctuated in recent days, and a shift in market value could lead to the next signficant development.
Hopkins – who recently signed on with Klutch sports after having not had an agent – is reportedly seeking a contract similar to the one-year, $15MM one Odell Beckham Jr.signed with the Ravens in April. Such terms would be quite challenging for many teams to afford given their cap situations this late in the offseason, particularly the Bills and Chiefs, the ones most frequently named as frontrunners to sign Hopkins.
On that point, SI’s Albert Breer predicts that Buffalo and Kanas City would add the three-time All-Pro “only at a discount.” Financial pressures could very well drive down Hopkins’ asking price, something which would be necessary for either AFC contender considering they rank near the bottom of the league in available funds. On the other hand, the value of Beckham’s deal came as a shock to many, so Hopkins still may be able to land a contract of considerable value with a different team.
Breer names the Patriots as a team to watch, especially since acquiring the 30-year-old no longer requires giving up draft compensation. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien – the head coach and general manager of the Texans when Hopkins was traded from Houston to Arizona – “would be plenty on board with, not against” adding Hopkins to New England’s roster, Breer adds. The Patriots have previously been linked to a Hopkins pursuit, and they are in far better shape with respect to cap space than the Chiefs and Bills. Doug Kyed of A to Z Sports confirms that New England is “monitoring” the five-time Pro Bowler’s market.
Finances are also less of an issue for the Browns and Ravens, teams which have been on the fringe of the Hopkins sweepstakes to date. A deal in Cleveland would reunite Hopkins with quarterback Deshaun Watson, of course, but the Browns have already made several moves at the WR position. Breer categorizes a Hopkins-to-Cleveland move as “unlikely” to take place at this point.
To little surprise, the Giants and Cowboys have bowed out of the Hopkins pursuit. Multiple teams should still be in the running to sign him, though, especially if his asking price has indeed come down. More clarity could emerge soon with respect to Hopkins’ intended destination and how willing other squads are willing to engage in a bidding war for his services.
Maag fills the open roster spot vacated by retired tight endBen Ellefson yesterday. After four years at North Dakota, the local native returns home to the Minneapolis area after going undrafted in April. In 49 games for the Fighting Hawks, Maag caught 162 passes for 2,152 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’ll add some depth to a position group in Minnesota headlined by Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and first-round pick out of USC Jordan Addison.
The Patriots’ decision to trade their first-round pick (No. 14 overall) to the Steelers produced some fallout, with the Jets believed to have been targeting Broderick Jonesat No. 15. The Commanders factor into this interesting decision as well, having also discussed a trade-up with the Pats.
Washington GM Martin Mayhew spoke with Patriots scouting director Eliot Wolf during the run-up to New England’s No. 14 selection. The terms discussed (via a video showing Commanders draft-night proceedings; h/t MassLive.com’s Mark Daniels) point to Washington not wanting to give up its third-round pick (No. 97) in a deal to climb two spots.
Mayhew indicated the team might be willing to send its fourth-rounder (No. 118) to the Patriots for No. 14, and a second phone conversation revealed the Pats were willing to throw in a sixth-rounder to acquire the Commanders’ third. But after the Packers chose Lukas Van Ness at No. 13, the Commanders stood down. Ron Rivera and Commanders exec Marty Hurney referenced the likelihood of either Emmanuel Forbes or Christian Gonzalez remaining on the board at No. 16 as a reason not to complete a trade with the Pats. As it turned out, both Forbes and Gonzalez were available.
Forbes, who returned six interceptions for touchdowns during a prolific career at Mississippi State, did not end up being docked for his size (6-foot, 166). Despite ESPN’s Scouts Inc. slotting Gonzalez as this draft’s eighth-best prospect and ranking Forbes 21st, Washington preferred the smaller player to the Oregon prospect. The Pats chose Gonzalez at No. 17.
The Commanders’ decision not to complete a trade to ensure they ended up with Forbes led to the Patriots sending their pick to the Steelers, who took Jones. The Pats ended up with a fourth-round pick (No. 120) two spots below the one they may well have been able to obtain from the Commanders, but the much-rumored bonus of denying the Jets a first-round tackle likely sweetened the deal for Bill Belichick and Co.
“I’m not going to delve into the relationship between New England and the Jets; let’s just say I’m glad we found a partner,” Mike Tomlin said during a Rich Eisen Show appearance (video link). “I’ll put it this way: there wasn’t a lot of hesitation on New England’s end.”
“We were speculating there. We knew with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers and so forth, [the Jets] might be fishing in those waters,” Tomlin said. “And so we did what we thought we needed to do to get the player and the position that we coveted. … There was a run on the position, starting with, I think [Bears selection]Darnell Wrightat about 10 where they were coming off pretty clean. We just had that as a position of priority and we had Broderick as an individual of priority.”
The Commanders chose corners in Rounds 1 and 2, selecting Illinois’Jartavius Martin at No. 47. The team moved on from a William Jackson miscalculation last season and will expect Forbes and Martin to make significant impacts alongside Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste. Despite Fuller’s past as a slot corner, the Commanders are planning to leave him on the outside in their zone-based system, John Keim of ESPN.com tweets. Ron Rivera said OTAs have featured Forbes and St-Juste being used both inside and outside. Rivera noted the team liked what St-Juste, a 2021 third-rounder, brought as a slot defender last season.
As for the Patriots, Gonzalez marks the first pure corner Belichick has chosen in Round 1 since he took the reins in 2000. The team expected the Commanders to choose Forbes, leaving them Gonzalez, whom the Pats — despite their three-spot trade-down maneuver — universally held in high regard.
“Teams have to wait a little bit here in the first round before they get their picks in. We didn’t know, but we had a pretty good feeling as to how Washington was going to play it out,” Pats player personnel director Mike Groh said (via Daniels). “So that sped things along for us. Again, it’s nice when you’ve got a consensus on a player. So from the coaching staff, to the scouts, we’re fairly unified grade wise on Christian. That just sped the process along.”
The start of June has served as a key NFL financial period for decades. While teams no longer have to wait until after June 1 to make that cost-splitting cut designation, teams pick up the savings from those transactions today. With a handful of teams making post-June 1 cuts this year, here is how each team’s cap space (courtesy of OverTheCap) looks as of Friday:
The Jets’ number is a bit deceiving. They are still working on a restructure withAaron Rodgers, as the trade acquisition’s cap number — after a Packers restructure — sits at just $1.22MM. In 2024, that number skyrockets to $107.6MM. Rodgers’ cap hit will almost definitely will climb before Week 1, so viewing the Jets along with the other teams north of $20MM in space is not entirely accurate.
Minnesota is moving closer to separating from its $12.6MM-per-year Dalvin Cook contract. The team already created some space by trading Za’Darius Smithto the Browns. Cleveland, which is one of the teams connected toDeAndre Hopkins, added Smith and did so with help from its Deshaun Watsonrestructure. Watson was set to count $54.9MM against the Browns’ 2023 cap. That number is down to $19.1MM, though the Browns’ restructure both ballooned Watson’s mid-2020s cap figures to $63.9MM — which would shatter the NFL record — and added a 2027 void year.
Tampa Bay and Los Angeles sit atop the league in dead money, with the Bucs — largely from their April 2022 Tom Bradyrestructure — checking in at $75.3MM here. That total comprises nearly 33% of the Bucs’ 2023 cap sheet. The Rams, at more than $74MM, are not far behind. Despite the Bills and Chiefs — the teams most frequently tied to Hopkins — joining the Bucs and Rams near the bottom of the league in cap space, both AFC contenders also sit in the bottom five in dead money.
“There are several teams, including the New England Patriots, that are interested in DeAndre Hopkins,” Russini said (h/t to Mark Daniels of MassLive.com). “We’re going to see over the next few weeks Hopkins taking visits with different teams and then he’s going to make a decision with what’s best for him.”
“I think adult relationships are always complicated no matter what you do. But the thing is when you look at DeAndre Hopkins and his relationship with Coach O’Brien, both of them brought out the best in each other,” Perry said.
Hopkins has reportedly been seeking a contract similar to that of Odell Beckham Jr.‘s one-year, $15MM pact with Baltimore. That asking price hasn’t driven teams away, but it’s led to suitors like the Bills being described as “long shots” in the sweepstakes. The Patriots, meanwhile, are currently armed with $14MM in cap space and could easily carve out the necessary room to sign the veteran receiver.
The Chiefs, Bills, and Giants were previously the only teams definitively connected to the free agent receiver. While there’s been plenty of speculation that Hopkins prefers a top-end contender like Kansas City or Buffalo, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that the wideout remains “open minded” about his next team. Fowler adds that the receiver intends to be patient, with minicamp considered a “soft deadline” and training camp considered the “harder deadline.”
Hopkins would be a natural fit in a questionable Patriots receivers room. New England watched Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor leave via free agency, and they added JuJu Smith-Schuster to a depth chart that still includes DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton. Hopkins’ 79.7 yards-per-game easily outpaced all Patriots receivers in 2022, and while the wideout is entering his age-31 season, he’d still provide Mac Jones with a reliable target in what will be a crucial year for the quarterback.
As teams regroup on potential trade talks, 2024 draft picks represent the top non-player assets available. Although the usual run of draft-weekend trades featured teams moving up and down the 2023 board, a high number of 2024 picks have changed hands. The Cardinals resided at the center of such movement, but many other teams have already made changes to their 2024 draft arsenals. Three first-rounders have already been traded, and a fourth — barring an Aaron Rodgers injury — will be expected to transfer.
Here are the 2024 picks to have changed hands thus far:
The Patriots were hit with the loss of some OTA time last week after they were found to have violated the league’s rules on time spent in meetings, but not on-field work. As a result, the league’s fine handed down to Bill Belichick was $50K instead of the maximum $100K, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. The NFL also elected not to fine the organization, likely in large part because the Patriots cooperated in full with the investigation. From the players’ perspective, the most important element of the discipline is the fact that they will not be allowed to work out at the team’s facility during the days in which the violation is served.
The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.
On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.
Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.
The Chiefs were reportedly one of the most active teams looking into former Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this year. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Kansas City had received permission to talk with the now-free agent earlier in the offseason and spoke with him before the draft.
The biggest hurdle for the Chiefs, as it was for any team Arizona spoke to, was having to take on Hopkins’s existing contract. If a trade were going to take place, Kansas City wanted a much lower price, meaning the Cardinals would have to take on some of Hopkins’s contract in the trade.
Here are a few more rumors surrounding the still young free agency of DHop:
The Chiefs were not the only team that the Cardinals struggled to find equal ground with on a trade. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who spoke on the Pat McAfee Show, Arizona was working to trade the veteran wideout up until the day before the first round of the NFL draft. The Cardinals hit snags, though, as each discussion required handling of draft pick compensation and salary adjustments that would require Arizona to take on some of Hopkins’s salary. In the end, they opted to take the hit in the salary cap while ultimately saving cash.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler was one of the first to release a list of best fits for Hopkins in his newfound free agency. According to Fowler, the Bills, Chiefs, Jets, Cowboys, and Saints are the teams to watch out for in the initial race. A Stefon Diggs-Hopkins-Gabriel Davis trio could be just what’s needed to put the Bills in a Super Bowl, but the team only has around $2.4MM in cap space. The Jets are a bit better at $6.9MM of cap space (still far under the $19.45MM Hopkins was set to make in Arizona this year), but the team is working to create more cap room by restructuring large contracts like those of linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Corey Davis. They nearly had Odell Beckham Jr. before the Ravens swept in and nabbed him themselves. The Cowboys are set on defense and have some strong weapons on offense. Adding Hopkins to a receiving corps that contains CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks could be deadly, and they’ve got $9MM of cap space to work with. The Saints have missed having a star wideout as they’ve dealt with the durability issues of Michael Thomas. Hopkins would be a nice veteran mentor for youngsters Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, and New Orleans has the most cap space of the above teams at $13.6MM. Fowler also lists the Browns, Giants, Falcons, and Patriots as wild-card teams to look out for.
Speaking of the Patriots, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports that, now that the contract isn’t nearly as much of a hurdle, New England is more likely to pursue Hopkins. Hopkins reportedly had a bit of a rocky relationship with Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien when the two were in Houston together, but adding Hopkins would immediately provide quarterback Mac Jones with a WR1. Hopkins would be teaming up with Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, and last year’s second-round pick Tyquan Thornton to try and mount an upgraded New England passing attack.