Why the Patriots haven’t been aggressive with DeAndre Hopkins

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As we approach the “three weeks away” mark of NFL training camp, another report has surfaced about the Patriots and their pursuit of free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

While things have been relatively quiet on both fronts since the three-time All-Pro’s visit to New England last month, ESPN’s Mike Reiss clarified some details this weekend about the team’s involvement in Hopkins’ free agency. stating the following:

The Tennessee Titans and Patriots have made offers, the Titans have been more aggressive to this point, and Hopkins is in no rush to sign. One reason Hopkins is waiting a little longer is to leave open the possibility of another team entering the mix, potentially increasing his market.”

Given this reporting, an obvious question arises: why aren’t the Patriots as aggressive as the Titans?

I think our answer is as simple as a) Hopkins and Belichick’s mutual respect for each other, and b) the way the Patriots tend to negotiate.

Belichick is known for negotiating with players about their contracts in such a way that he will make an offer, give them a chance to test their value on the open market, and then make sure they come back to the Patriots for their “best and last”. Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Julian Edelman are just a few who have done this with Bill during their time in New England.

6 rings: Patriots are favorites to land DeAndre Hopkins

By all accounts, that seems to be exactly what Hopkins is doing. Reiss has echoed the reporting from colleague Jeremy Fowler that the wide receiver is “waiting until closer to training camp in late July to make a move,” likely trying to drive up his market.

Free agent media member Mike Giardi has also reported it several times along the way.

But why would Hopkins and his camp even go back to Belichick? And why would Belichick make a “Price is Right” move and bid one more dollar for the pass catcher?

Well, it is well documented that these two have not only a mutual respect, but an outright crush for each other. Take a look at their meeting before last season’s Patriots vs. Cardinals game at Glendale:

Here is the full transcript of their conversation:

“Bill Belichick: I’m glad we only have to play you every four years, man.

DeAndre Hopkins: I love you man.

BB: You too, you too. What career you have. You missed half the season, you’re still going to lead the league in receiving.

DH: You know I’m doing my job, man.

BB: Yes Yes.

DH: Trying to get better, man.”

The admiration these two all-time greats have for each other runs deep, and it clearly means a lot to both of them.

So other than this, why else would Hopkins choose New England?

“If it stays between the Titans and the Patriots,” Reiss continued in his column,” a question Hopkins may have to ask himself is which team gives him a better chance to cash in on incentives and maximize his earnings. Given his proven production in Bill O’Brien’s offense from their time together with the Houston Texans, maybe that would give New England an advantage.”

Digging into the numbers, Hopkins was average 97 catches, 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns per season during his time with Bill O’Brien in Houston. If he could even sniff out that production from the three-time All-Pro in 2023, then it would be worth the price.

And about the relationship between the two? The supposed rift between Hopkins and O’Brien has become a dark cloud over the wide receiver’s free agency process. For those out of the loop, O’Brien was the one in charge of the Texans’ front office operations when they traded Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in 2020, and the two were reportedly no fans of each other.

But oneaccording to ESPN’s Dianna Russinithere is “no enmity at all” between the two, and according to Hopkins himself, they have “no relationship”. He added, “make sure you put it in there. There’s not much to talk about.”

Adam Schefter of ESPN also reported on their relationship during this free agency saga, saying that Foxborough as a destination for Hopkins “may be the one that makes the most financial sense, and if it is, then of course everybody can make it work.”

Obviously, the reported feud is water under the bridge at this point and may also have been wildly exaggerated, considering Hopkins visited New England last month.

Hopkins’ presence in this Bill O’Brien-led offense, along with Mac Jones, a cerebral quarterback known for his decision-making and high football IQ, would at least be a start to putting this offense over the edge. The 6-foot-1 ball magnet would help dictate coverage and open up space for O’Brien’s matchup-heavy system and scheme.

As I mentioned in my lead, we are still just over three weeks away from Patriots training camp. Be patient, young grasshoppers. The Patriots are far from out of this thing.

Be sure to follow along Mike on Twitter @mikekadlickand follow @WEEI for the latest up-to-date Patriots and Boston sports news!

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