Trends come and go in the NFL.
Right now, the popular move that produces immediate results is to go out and trade for a No. 1 wide receiver. The Eagles did it with Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown. The same approach worked with Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs.
So if general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy want to see what Justin Fields is truly capable of as a passer, the priority in 2023 must be to get the 23-year-old quarterback a go-to pass catcher.
The name that keeps coming up and now seems to be even more realistic is DeAndre Hopkins. According to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, Hopkins’ no-trade clause in his contract became “voided when he was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season” after he violated the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy.
Hopkins no longer has the luxury to decline a potential trade destination by new Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort. At 30 years old, it would have made sense for Hopkins to prefer an established team that had a realistic chance of winning a Super Bowl.
The Bears are not a Super Bowl contender, but adding a true No. 1 receiver – which Hopkins still is – immediately helps Fields as he heads into his third season in the league.
Hopkins played in nine games last season and caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns (second-lowest in his career). It’s worth noting that Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray only played four games together last season. Murray did start in Week 14 against New England, but he only played three offensive snaps before tearing his ACL and meniscus. Over the last two seasons, Hopkins has missed 15 games due to injury and his suspension.
But since Hopkins was drafted No. 27 overall in 2013, he has played in 15 or more games in 8 of his 10 seasons played. The five-time Pro Bowler has also surpassed 1,000 yards receiving six times in his career.
Hopkins’ resume and accolades speak for themselves and adding a wide receiver of his talent would drastically improve the state of the Bears offense.
Look how quarterbacks going into Year 3 have benefited after acquiring a No.1 wide receiver:
- Dak Prescott — In 2018, the Cowboys traded a first-round pick (No. 27 overall in 2019) to the Raiders for a 24-year-old Amari Cooper.
- Josh Allen — In 2020, the Bills traded four draft picks (No. 22 overall, a fifth-round pick, sixth-round pick and 2021 fourth-round pick) to the Vikings for a 27-year-old Stefon Diggs.
- Tua Tagovailoa — In 2022, the Dolphins traded five draft picks (a first-rounder, a second-rounder, two fourths and a sixth) to the Chiefs for a 28-year-old Tyreek Hill.
- Jalen Hurts — In 2022, the Eagles traded the No. 18 and 101 overall picks to the Titans for a 25-year-old A.J. Brown.
Allen, Hurts and Tagovaloa showed flashes but were all inconsistent and far from reaching their full potential as a quarterback before they each got their No. 1 wide receiver. Sounds like a similar situation to the one Fields is in right now.
The biggest difference between the wide receivers listed above and Hopkins is age. But the Bears could use that and his two-year, $34.36 million remaining contract to their advantage when negotiating a potential trade. A soon-to-be 31-year-old Hopkins in June shouldn’t be worth a first-round pick, even though the Cardinals may try to get that.
But would a second- or third-round pick or a combination of later-round picks be enough for a player like Hopkins? And would Poles be willing to give up that kind of draft capital?
Pro Football Focus salary cap analyst Brad Spielberger, who has had conversations with people around the league, said age wouldn’t be a deal breaker for the Bears.
“I don’t think they’re going to be afraid of 29, 30-year-old guys with the idea that those players help them the next couple of years,” Spielberger told CHGO on Thursday’s show. “And then your draft class, you’re building for the future and getting some teammates for Fields hopefully for the next five to ten years.”
If the Bears were to acquire Hopkins, they should still look into drafting a wide receiver. Hopkins would give Fields the receiver he needs right now, while also allowing a rookie to develop over the course of the season. A pass-catching core of Hopkins, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Velus Jones Jr., Cole Kmet and a 2023 rookie would look promising for the Bears next season.
At the moment, Chicago has eight draft picks and the most cap space in the NFL.
The Bears have plenty of resources. If there is an opportunity to add Hopkins, Poles needs to take that chance, because that kind of move is exactly what Fields needs to unlock him as a passer.
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