You know that one Dan Campbell GIF from “Hard Knocks” that everyone keeps using? The one where Campbell is doing the plane lifting off as a way to display the way the Detroit Lions are also rising? Well, that’s happening in real life right now. This team is taking itself from a middling team to contender. It happened really fast and that feels weird, but it’s happening.
With that in mind, I asked the Lions to take swings in free agency this offseason. I feel like they did that when they hit the ground running the moment free agency opened up. Not that I think it will, but that doesn’t need to stop right now. I think we know today that it won’t since the Lions essentially announced that they are in the Calais Campbell hunt.
That’s a great position to fill, but there’s one position the Lions could fill right now that could make them incredibly dangerous. That’s wide receiver. There happens to be one guy out there who could help the Lions put this offense over the top. That’s current Arizona Cardinals receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.
The Cardinals are currently shopping Hopkins and there are a hefty amount of teams that should be interested. The Lions might be the team that has everything a team could need to pull off this move. They have the money and they have the assets to get it done.
Hopkins comes with two expensive remaining years on his contract, but the elite receiver will likely be seeking an immediate extension with his new team. That way the Lions can lower his cap commitment in 2023 and fit him into future cap, where the Lions are in a very healthy situation.
The Cardinals current asking price is reportedly a second-round pick for Hopkins. Ultimately, I don’t think they’ll get that, but if that’s the hard going price, that’s no problem for the Lions since they have two. They also have a ton of cap space this year and in the immediate future.
What do the Lions get with Hopkins? Well, they get one of the best receivers in the game today. A guy with top-five talent at his position. Hopkins did miss time last season, but he racked up an impressive 64 receptions for 717 yards in just nine games. That 79.7 yards per game average ranked him 10th in the NFL last season.
Though last year was a down year, Hopkins has traditionally finished in the top 10 of PFF’s wide receiver grades, finishing sixth in 2020, fifth in 2019, and first in 2018.
DJ Chark was this team’s contested catch threat last year, and without him, they are missing that sure-handed perimeter receiver. That’s where Hopkins could step in immediately. There may not be a single player in the NFL with a more impressive highlight reel of ridiculous, closely-contested catches, and he’s consistently ranked among the top 15 in contested catch rate.
The Lions then get to pair that talent with the talent of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond. That right there seems like the most dangerous group in the game. Where do you throw the ball? Jared Goff could really have the opportunity to get surgical out there. This also opens up the run game even more since the air talent will keep defenders out of the box.
What are the cons? Well, there’s age. Hopkins will be 31 years old when he takes the field for whatever team he winds up on next season. I know that athletes in the past start a real down trend in their 30s, but that hasn’t really been the case at wide receiver these days. Guys like Tyler Lockett (30) and Adam Thielen (32) are still playing at a very high level.
The other issue is that Hopkins has missed some games recently. Injuries are part of the game. They happen all the time. Hopkins missed six games in 2021 with a hamstring injury and a torn MCL. While injuries are a problem, suspensions are worse.
Hopkins doesn’t have a long history of suspensions, but last year he did have to serve a six-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. There’s no reason to believe this is something any team should have to be worried about happening again, but for a team that’s so focused on culture like the Lions, it is a red flag.
There’s no telling if the Lions will make a move like this, but they should. The Lions need some help at receiver after the loss of DJ Chark. They could go find some extra help in the draft or they could make a real splash with this. I say go all in on the splash.