Frank Sanders is one of the more decorated receivers in the history of the Arizona Cardinals, and still refers to the team as ‘we’ in conversation.
But he’s also pragmatic, and after watching DeAndre Hopkins up close and personal the past few years, has no issue with the All-Pro receiver’s desire to leave the organization.
Hopkins has not yet been traded this offseason, but it seems inevitable, and while many believe the root of the issue is money or an impending rebuild, Sanders said not to overlook usage issues under Kliff Kingsbury that could have left Hopkins frustrated.
“This offense the last two years did not feature him,” Sanders, who notched a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons during his stint with the Cardinals from 1995-2002, told me on Thursday. “I think to be utilized is important, and our offense did not find ways to maximize his talents. You’re looking at DeAndre Hopkins playing 75% on the left side of the football field. You’re looking at A.J. Green playing 85 to 90% on the right side of the football field.
“That’s terrible. I don’t care what age they are. They’ve been able to secure 12 Pro Bowls between them. That’s crazy to me. The offense did not utilize those guys. If he wants to leave, I’d totally understand it. And I think the reason he wanted to leave (originally) was because of those decisions.”
DeAndre Hopkins route tree over his last three games has been… limited pic.twitter.com/dQzK9ZQtbV
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 8, 2020
Sanders said there may have been a brief window for the new staff to make their pitch to keep Hopkins, but a lethargic start to free agency made it clear the team is pivoting to a massive rebuild.
“They’re starting over, and he doesn’t need to be here,” Sanders said. “Look at our offensive line. Look at our team. Look at the quality of players we have. Look at what we’re doing in the offseason. You have to ask yourself, ‘Are you coming here to die?’ And I think DeAndre has another two or three years left in him, so that’s not the conversation.”
Sanders thinks Hopkins should be able to fetch a second-round pick because there hasn’t been a noticeable decline in his game.
Pats have made trade calls for DeAndre Hopkins and Jerry Jeudy, per @jeffphowe.
They also attended OBJ's workout. Need to upgrade at WR pic.twitter.com/fU5vbehSQ0
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) March 15, 2023
Hopkins missed the first four games last season with a PED suspension and wasn’t on the field down the stretch as the Cardinals relied on backup quarterbacks, but averaged 79.7 receiving yards per game in the nine he did play.
As far as potential destinations, Sanders said Baltimore would be a “hot spot” and said Denver could be intriguing because of the new coaching staff.
Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons has done his best to get Hopkins to Dallas, and Sanders sees the Cowboys as a fit.
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) March 15, 2023
“You can get a lot of big play opportunities out of D-Hop, and it would open up stuff for CeeDee Lamb,” Sanders said. “CeeDee is supposed to be the No. 1 receiver, but he drops a lot of balls. That’s not something you can overlook.”
It’s unclear when Hopkins will be dealt, but an Arizona team that already allowed Zach Allen and Byron Murphy to leave in free agency seems to be in no position to keep Hopkins at this stage.
“I know conversationally it looks good to keep a guy with his talent, with what he brings to the table, but if you look at what they’re trying to do in the organization, it’s right to trade him and try to get some picks of value for him,” Sanders said.
While Sanders doesn’t think the Cardinals did a good job of meeting Hopkins’ needs during his three-year stint, he hopes they do him a solid on the way out the door.
“I’d hope they look at it, not just from a fiduciary standpoint, but that he can go out and do something special,” Sanders said. “Our goals don’t match where he’s at right now. They can give him a chance to get a championship.”