DeAndre Hopkins recently quipped: "Who said I wanted to leave?"
The Arizona Cardinals receiver asked the question amid swirling trade rumors in the aftermath of an NFL draft that failed to foment his exit from Arizona — to the surprise of many.
On Monday, he dropped the pretext that he wasn't thinking about his departure from the desert. During an appearance on the "I am Athlete" podcast, Hopkins opened up about his thoughts on his situation in Arizona. While doing so, he also listed five quarterbacks that he'd like to catch passes from moving forward — none of whom were named Kyler Murray.
He was asked the question directly by host Brandon Marshall. He didn't shut it down, but instead started in on his list:
DeAndre Hopkins was asked on @IAMATHLETEpod which QBs he'd love to have throwing him the ball. #Bills QB Josh Allen was quickly his first answer.
Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert rounded out his top-5.pic.twitter.com/gtepzf9JD4
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) May 22, 2023
"That's a good question," Hopkins responded. "I would have to say one of my favorite quarterbacks I've been watching since he came in the league is Josh Allen. He reminds me of a new-school Andrew Luck."
He then went on to list Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, in that order. After struggling to come up with his fifth option, he landed on Justin Herbert. Again, none of those quarterbacks is Murray, the Cardinals quarterback who's expected to miss a significant portion if not all of the 2023 season while recovering from a torn ACL.
Hopkins had previously remained largely silent amid the rumors. He did previously tweet — and then delete — a cryptic message about his contract situation, with his salary believed to be a sticking point in trade negotiations between the Cardinals and interested suitors.
"Hopkins don't want a raise," he tweeted in April ahead of the NFL draft.
Hopkins talks management instability, Kyler Murray
But it's clear from this interview that he's very much thinking about what's next after the Cardinals. And why wouldn't he? The Cardinals are motivated — and reportedly working — to move him. Hopkins described to Marshall what he values from a franchise moving forward as he approaches his 31-year-old season.
"What I want is stable management upstairs," Hopkins continued. "I think that’s something I haven’t really had the past couple years of my career coming from Houston to being in Arizona. I’ve been through three to four GMs through my career.
"So stable management — a QB who loves the game. A QB who brings everybody on board with him and pushes not just himself, but people around him. I don’t need a great QB. I’ve done it with subpar QBs — just a QB who loves the game like I do."
Hopkins went on to say that he values playing with a great defense. When pressed, he clarified his thoughts on Murray.
"I think Kyler is a quarterback who loves the game as well," Hopkins continued. "But he’s injured. So right now, for me, I’m playing with Colt McCoy, who I love. So who knows? Right now, I don’t have a Pro Bowl quarterback."
An exit from Arizona makes sense for both parties. The Cardinals are embarking on a rebuild campaign having revamped the coaching staff and front office and stockpiled premium draft assets ahead of a season that will largely be bereft of an injured Murray.
Hopkins, meanwhile, is a high-priced, aging All-Pro.
There's no football reason for a non-competitive Cardinals team to keep Hopkins and his $19.45 million salary on in 2023. For Hopkins — who's seeking his first Super Bowl ring —and a contender in need of receiving help, the mutual appeal is clear. The idea of Hopkins lined up opposite of Stefon Diggs and catching passes from Allen is a drool-inducing prospect for anybody invested in the Buffalo Bills.
For now, though the ball remains in the hands of the Cardinals while Hopkins ponders what's next.