By All Accounts, the Patriots are Out of the DeAndre Hopkins Market, and Jerry Jeudy is Very Much in Play
I'll be honest. It's been a long couple of days working this corner of the street. Waiting for the Patriots to make yet another personnel move after the free agent supply has pretty much been exhausted has been excruciating. The most insidery of insiders and former podcast guest Scott Zolak has been promising news:
... which has had me going Full Sondheim for two days now:
… but that something coming still hasn't come. It's been like waiting for you dinner delivery to show up at your door and not knowing whether to starve or grab a snack because there's no telling if the guy will make it, or even if the meal will be worth the wait.
Well I've decided to have something to eat, because the wait is killing me. And it appears that whatever arrives and whenever it gets to our door, Pats fans are not going to get their first choice. Despite what I said the other day, reports indicate that DeAndre Hopkins has been 86'ed off the menu.
The Athletic - With a new Cardinals regime, headed by GM Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon, rival teams know Hopkins would be a salary dump, which significantly reduces his trade value. That’s why teams like the Patriots, who had an early conversation with the Cardinals, don’t plan to pursue him unless there’s a substantial change in philosophy, according to a league source.
NBC Sports Boston - Despite the Arizona Cardinals' asking price reportedly dropping, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer doesn't foresee Hopkins landing in Foxboro. He poured cold water on the Hopkins-to-Patriots hype during his Thursday appearance on "Early Edition."
"I don't think that anybody in the organization anticipates it happening," Breer said. "I think part of it is all of this comes along with DeAndre Hopkins -- he doesn't practice, there's been attitude issues in the past, and there's been a clash in particular with Bill O'Brien. I just think that they see this as a bridge too far right now."
To me, the thing that's most surprising in this is that it isn't Hopkins saying he'd never work with Bill O'Brien again - which most of us assumed would be the case - but that it's the team putting it out there that they're not interested in the player. I mean, this isn't just some negotiation tactic to lower Arizona's asking price. This is declaring the item for sale damaged goods.
Bad blood between DHop and BOB (their rapper names) is one thing. Him taking practices off is a deal breaker with this franchise. We know that if a team leader like a Jerod Mayo comes to him and says the players need a break, Bill Belichick is willing to give them a lighter workload. But one player helping himself to a little "Me" time is not going to fly as long as Belichick is drawing a breath. There's no Quiet Quitting on his watch. Tom Brady didn't take Mental Health days, no wideout is getting one. The fact this is out there can only mean that O'Brien wasn't interested from the beginning, and this supposed interest has all just been rumor-mongering, with no facts to support the monger. Which is disappointing, because Hopkins would be a hell of an addition.
But Breer offers a far more credible alternative:
Same article - "I think they need to bring in somebody who at least has the potential to grow into a No. 1, which is why I looked at Jerry Jeudy as being a really, really good option," Breer said. … I can see why they wouldn't go after Hopkins given all the issues they had last year, but I think you have to find a way creatively to go find your No. 1."
And he's not alone:
WR JERRY JEUDY, DENVER BRONCOS
Possible Landing Spots: New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans
Jeudy has been an elite separator in the NFL, excelling against man coverage, but has yet to fully realize his potential within a struggling offense. He may be limited to a No. 2 type of role in the NFL, but he can be an exceptionally effective receiver as part of a receiving corps in a more functional passing offense. Several teams would love to have him as a complement to their already established No. 1 option.
Best Fit: New England Patriots
Source - Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was described by a source as a “more realistic” trade option than Hopkins, but “Denver is pricing him like they don't actually want to move him." So, we’re in a bit of a holding pattern on Jeudy, who’s been priced by Denver as a first-round pick.
“He's a good player but it's a lot,” a source said.
I agree with all of this. Not the least of which is the part where the source says a 1st round pick for Jeudy is a lot to ask for. The Patriots are holding the 14th pick, which happens to be one spot higher than where Jeudy was drafted. I'll concede they traded their 2017th pick for Brandin Cooks, but that was the 32nd pick. Plus New Orleans sent back a 4th rounder. And Cooks was coming off two 1,100+ yard seasons, his first two of four consecutive. Maybe it's through no fault of his own because the Broncos are objectively terrible, but Jeudy has yet to crack 1,000. Denver is asking for the moon. Which would help explain why we've all been stuck waiting for something to break and I can't get West Side Story out of my head.
And so the wait continues. O'Brien's offense is already much improved. But by nobody's standards is it good enough as currently constituted. Juju Smith-Schuster has been a WR1 once in his career, and possibly could be again. But if he's your second option instead, you become a force that other team's coordinators are going to have actually game plan for. In contrast to last year, when the New England game was practically a week off. So here's hoping Denver comes to their senses, sets a more reasonable asking price, we can get a deal done and then go back to the business of being great once again. Make it so.