DeAndre Hopkins

NFC West Rumors: Hopkins, Brunskill, Seahawks, Rams

While there was some contention in regards to the six-game suspension handed down to Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the NFLPA considers his case a closed issue, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. There was a sliver of hope that the ban may be reduced from six to four games, and Hopkins still believes there may be, but it seems all but certain that he will be out for all six.

With Hopkins out, Arizona’s receiving room will be led by trade acquisition Marquise Brown, veteran A.J. Green, and second-year player Rondale Moore. The depth gets pretty thin behind those three with Andy Isabella, Antoine Wesley, and Greg Dortch on the roster, among a few others. The Cardinals also shopped Isabella earlier this year.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with a note out of the Bay Area:

Latest On DeAndre Hopkins’ PED Suspension

In an offseason filled with headlines at the receiver position in particular, one newsworthy item of a different nature was the six-game suspension handed down to DeAndre Hopkins. The cause of the ban – a prohibited substance being found in his bloodstream – remains a talking point for multiple reasons. 

Hopkins was suspended for having Ostarine in his system. It was originally reported, however, he had also tested positive for a diuretic or masking agent. A statement from the NFLPA refutes that allegation, though. It reads in part: “Hopkins never tested positive for any diuretic or masking agent and there was absolutely no evidence of any attempt to substitute, dilute or adulterate any specimen or any attempt to manipulate a test” (Twitter link via Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson).

Hopkins – who at one point considered appealing his suspension in large part due to the fact that a fraction over 0.1% of the substance was found, and maintains that he is unsure how it entered his body – is using his situation as a means to speak out against the NFL’s PED policy writ large. “I’ve never taken any of that kind of stuff,” he said, via ArizonaSports’ Alex Weiner“If you know about what it is, it can be in shampoo, it can be in a lot of different things. Obviously the NFL is very black and white, so of course, I wish the rule wasn’t so black and white. It is what it is.

“It’s hard to know what you can eat, what you can do when you’re not in control of manufacturing anything or what goes through a conveyor belt… So, obviously, I do think that rules should change. But like I said, that stuff, it’ll work itself out, and I’ve never taken anything. I barely take vitamins.”

The 30-year-old is also rehabbing from an MCL injury which cut his 2021 campaign short. He is expected to recover in time to take the field after his ban ends, but at least until then, his absence and the circumstances surrounding it are likely to remain contentious.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

Cardinals To Remain Cautious With DeAndre Hopkins’ Recovery

The Cardinals have known for quite some time that they will be without their top wideout for, in all likelihood, the first six weeks of the regular season in 2022. To ensure he is fully prepared to return from his PED suspension upon his eligibility to do so, the team must also keep in mind the MCL injury DeAndre Hopkins is recovering from. 

As a result, ESPN’s Josh Weinfus notes that the Cardinals are taking a “targeted approach” to Hopkins’ recovery. In essence, that will consist of the team putting him on a “pitch count” with respect to which days he practices on, and how much time he spends on the field at any one time.

“We’re trying to come up with a great plan that rolls right up to Week 7 of the season and make sure we’re smart about it,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “But, the main thing I don’t want him to do is ramp up, make a bunch of plays in training camp… and then six weeks he’s not doing anything.”

Hopkins will be allowed to practice with the team while suspended, giving both player and club the opportunity to institute a methodical recovery plan through the summer. A healthy return would be a welcomed sight for all parties, of course; the three-time All-Pro will have missed 14 of the last 16 games for Arizona by the time he will be cleared to play again. The impact of his loss on the team’s offense was significant late last year, precipitating in part one of Arizona’s most significant offseason moves.

The Cardinals traded a first round pick to the Ravens for wideout Marquise Brown during the draft, giving them a 1,000-yard wideout to deploy in Hopkins’ early absence. When both are available, Brown’s speed also projects as an effective compliment to the latter’s size and style of play. To ensure the tandem will be on the field together as soon as possible, the team will use a significant amount of caution in bringing back their No. 1 pass catcher.

DeAndre Hopkins Considering Appeal Of PED Suspension?

The Cardinals lost a significant member of their offense before the 2022 season even began when it was announced that DeAndre Hopkins would miss the first six games of the campaign due to a PED suspension. The wideout originally withdrew his appeal of the ban, but he remains hopeful that its length can ultimately be reduced. 

When speaking publicly for the first time since the suspension was handed down, Hopkins said, “We’re still doing some research right now” (video link via 12News’ Cameron Clark). “Hopefully, before the season starts, maybe we can get the games down a little bit. But no, it wasn’t on me. I’m a natural. I’m pretty much a naturopathic kind of person… And what it was, it was called Ostarine, and there was 0.1% of it found in my system.

“I don’t take any supplements… I barely take vitamins. So for something like that to happen to me, obviously, I was shocked. But my team and I, we’re still trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Kevin Patra of NFL.com notes that any reduction is “unlikely” at this point, given that the official announcement of the suspension would have been made after the opportunity for an appeal had come and gone. It remains all-but guaranteed, then, that Arizona will be without the three-time All-Pro to begin the season, extending his absence from the field dating back to the injuries which kept him sidelined at the end of the 2021 campaign.

Hopkins is confident that he will be fully recovered by the time he is eligible to return. In the meantime, the Cardinals will rely on Marquise Brown, whom they traded for at the draft, and former second-rounder Rondale Moore, who flashed potential as a rookie last year. Upon his return, Hopkins will add to that pass-catching corps, giving Arizona a chance to take a step forward in terms of offensive consistency throughout the season.

DeAndre Hopkins’ Long-Term Future In Doubt?

It came out yesterday that DeAndre Hopkins will miss more than a third of the 2022 season due to a violation of the NFL’s PED policy. As Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes, his return from suspension will play a large role in affecting his future with the Cardinals beyond the coming campaign. 

[RELATED: Hopkins Suspended Six Games For PED Violation]

The 29-year-old was everything the Cardinals would have asked for in his first year after being traded by the Texans. He put up his third-highest career total in terms of receiving yards with 1,407, adding six touchdowns on 115 receptions. Part of the reason he was able to do that was the fact that he was available for the entire season. As of the beginning of the 2021 campaign, Hopkins had missed only two games in his career.

That changed last year, though. He missed a combined total of seven contests in the regular season, as well as the team’s playoff loss to the Rams. His absence down the stretch was caused by a torn MCL, and had a dramatic impact on the team’s offense. The suspension means that, by the time Hopkins his eligible to return, he will have been sidelined for 14 of Arizona’s 16 most recent games.

Breer confirms that, as many expected, the knowledge of Hopkins’ impending suspension contributed to “the Cardinals’ pursuit of, and eventual trade for” Marquise Brown. More importantly, though, Breer also notes the financial ramifications of keeping Hopkins beginning in 2023. At that point, his salary is scheduled to jump from $6.65MM to just under $19.5MM, while his cap hit will spike to over $30MM. The 2024 season would, as his contract is currently structured, be similarly expensive.

Between that, and the uncertainty which will surround the five-time Pro Bowler regarding his recovery, Breer writes that “how the back end of 2022 goes for him could go a long way to determining where his career goes thereafter”. That statement would have been much more surprising 24 hours ago, but now, the degree to which it could hold true will be a storyline worth watching throughout the year.

DeAndre Hopkins Suspended Six Games For PED Violation

3:32 PM: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Hopkins “withdrew his appeal” of the suspension, making it official that he will miss the opening six weeks of the season without pay.

3:04 PM: The Cardinals made one notable addition to their receiving corps over the weekend, but they will be starting the season without their No. 1. DeAndre Hopkins is being suspended six games for a violation of the league’s Performance Enhancing Drug policy (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). 

The WR room has seen some significant changes this offseason for the Cardinals. Christian Kirk left in free agency, leaving a vacancy for a starting spot at the position. The team then filled that hole with the acquisition of former Raven Marquise Brown. As Schefter notes, that transaction becomes perhaps less surprising given the news of Hopkins’ suspension.

In years past, four games was the benchmark for suspension lengths regarding PED usage. More recently, however, that number has been elevated to six – as the likes of Ryan Anderson and Corey Coleman have found out. This news extends the length of Hopkins’ overall absence, as he missed the final four games of the 2021 regular season (and the team’s playoff loss) due to injury.

That missed time led to the three-time All-Pro posting career-low totals in terms of production. Across his two seasons with the Cardinals, the 29-year-old has posted 1,979 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. In his absence late in the year, however, Arizona’s offense continued a concerning trend of falling off considerably. The team will be in a similar situation to begin the 2022 campaign.

Hopkins becomes the second big-name wideout to receive a notable ban this offseason. Calvin Ridley will be sidelined for at least the entire 2022 campaign after he wagered on NFL games.

Contract Details: Watson, Adams, Stafford, Jones, Maye, Reed, Joseph-Day, Bozeman

Here are the latest details from contracts recently agreed to across the league, starting with the Browns’ fully guaranteed deal for their new quarterback.

  • Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): Five years, fully guaranteed $230MM. Everything else about Watson’s Cleveland arrival is complicated; his contract is not. Following the 2022 season, in which the Browns reduced his salary to $1MM due to the likely forthcoming suspension, Watson is set to make $46MM in base salary from 2023-26, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes.
  • Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): Four years, $160MM. The Rams are keeping Stafford’s base salaries down in the near future; they reside at $1.5MM for both 2022 and ’23, per OverTheCap. The team gave its quarterback a $60MM signing bonus, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. There are no void years on this deal, which includes $49.5MM, $50.5MM and $49.5MM cap numbers from 2024-26.
  • Davante Adams, WR (Raiders): Five years, $140MM. Adams’ deal surpasses DeAndre Hopkins‘ $27MM-per-year pact, but it is essentially a three-year, $67.5MM accord, Florio notes. Only $22.75MM is guaranteed at signing, but by early 2023, $42.9MM in injury guarantees shift to full guarantees. The Raiders have Adams tied to a $3.5MM 2022 base salary, helping for cap purposes, with a $20MM roster bonus representing part of that $42.9MM guarantee in 2023. Adams’ 2023 salary is set to be $6MM. His 2025 and ’26 salaries — $35.6MM apiece — are nonguaranteed.
  • Chandler Jones, OLB (Raiders): Three years, $51MM. The Raiders guaranteed Jones $32MM, with SI.com’s Howard Balzer noting the deal includes an $8.5MM roster bonus (Twitter link). The Raiders, who have Jones tied to base salaries of $4MM in 2022 and $7.5MM in 2023, tacked on two void years for cap purposes.
  • D.J. Reed, CB (Jets): Three years, $33MM. Reed collected $10.5MM guaranteed at signing and will count just $4.6MM against the Jets’ cap this year, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. Reed is set to count $14.2MM against the Jets’ 2023 and ’24 caps.
  • Marcus Maye, S (Saints): Three years, $22.5MM. Originally reported as three years and $28.5MM, Maye’s deal does include $14.5MM guaranteed, per Spotrac (on Twitter). Maye’s 2022 cap hit is just $2.6MM, and the Saints included two void years. Maye’s cap hits for 2023 and ’24 are $8.6MM and $8.7MM, respectively.
  • Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT (Chargers). Three years, $24MM. Joseph-Day will receive $16.5MM guaranteed, which is up from initial reporting here. His 2022 and ’23 base salaries — $2.5MM and $6.5MM — are guaranteed, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets.
  • Bradley Bozeman, OL (Panthers): One year, $2.8MM. Bozeman will receive a $1MM signing bonus and a $1MM base salary, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets.

DeAndre Hopkins Out For Cardinals’ WC Game

While the Cardinals may be welcoming back one of their key veterans for Monday’s Wild Card game against the Rams, they will be missing their No. 1 receiver. DeAndre Hopkins is not ready to come back to game action yet, according to an update from Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams

Hopkins was placed on IR in December after he suffered a torn MCL. That move, as expected, ended his regular season with an estimated recovery time of six weeks. While there was some hope he would be ready in time for Wild Card Weekend, the later stages of the playoffs were always the more realistic target for his return.

The 29-year-old’s second season in Arizona ended with a less than stellar stat line: 42 catches for 572 yards and eight touchdowns; the receptions and yardage totals are career lows thanks in large part to the fact he only played 10 games in 2021. Regardless of if he is able to come back at some point in the postseason, he is still under contract through 2024, with his cap hits scheduled to jump to $12.5MM next season and a maximum of $27.2MM in 2023.

The other injury news to keep an eye on is in relation to defensive end J.J. Watt. The 32-year old was designated to return from IR last week, opening the door to him returning in time for the playoffs. The news was surprising, given that the surgery he had to address a shoulder injury suffered in October was widely believed to have ended his season. Instead, he may be able to continue his inaugural season in the desert.

The Cardinals will finish the Wild Card round on Monday night when they visit the Rams.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/18/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans