DALLAS — Although the on-field work has just started this offseason, roster construction never ends and teams still can sign free agents. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the teams who are notoriously more active as the offseason goes on.
In recent years, safety Malik Hooker and defensive end Everson Griffen were added as part of late efforts to improve the roster.
As June approaches, the Cowboys are now faced with another opportunity to elevate the team. Veteran wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was released by the Arizona Cardinals last week and the Cowboys have been mentioned as a possible landing spot.
New offseason, same question for the Cowboys, however. Are they willing to spend the type of money that it will take to sign a premiere free agent?
Dallas hasn’t been willing to throw their cap dollars at top-tier free agents over the last decade or so, but Hopkins could be an exception.
Earlier in the offseason, there was speculation the Cowboys would be willing to trade for Hopkins, but it never materialized and they pivoted to sending the Houston Texans a couple of draft picks for WR Brandin Cooks. Now, the team can add Hopkins without having to give up draft compensation.
The team should investigate what the cost would be, but Cowboys fans shouldn’t hold their breath on signing the five-time All-Pro WR. The expected cost to sign Hopkins seems like it’s going to be higher than the team is willing to spend their cap dollars.
Even if the cost will be cheaper than the rumored $23 million asking price, it likely won’t come down to a place where the Cowboys are comfortable. In this case, it’s hard to blame the organization if they pass on adding Hopkins.
There’s no denying Hopkins’ talent, but age and injuries are legitimate concerns. Hopkins is set to turn 31 years old on June 6 and is coming off back-to-back seasons where he couldn’t play a full campaign.
Hopkins tore his MCL in 2018, which caused him to miss the last seven games, and was suspended for the start of the 2022 season because he violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Prior to the last two years, Hopkins was among the league’s best receivers. The former Clemson product had four straight 1,000-yard seasons, which included a 1,572-yard campaign in 2018, and a 13-touchdown season in 2017. That type of production would give the Cowboys perhaps the best WR tandem in the league if Hopkins were paired with last year’s All-Pro receiver CeeDee Lamb.
With Dallas gun shy about big dollar free agent deals, that pairing isn’t likely to happen. Hopkins also hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard season since 2020 and, with Cooks in the mix, a down roster addition might be more prudent in the long run.
After Dallas traded for Cooks, they restructured his deal to cost the team only $6 million for the 2023 season. It’s highly unlikely that the organization would spend more salary cap money on another veteran WR at the top of the depth chart.
As good as Hopkins is, Cooks provides the offense with something that Hopkins doesn’t, speed. Cooks is a better fit for the Cowboys and gives the team an element that was missing last season as a down the field threat.
Hopkins has elite hands and excels at contested catches, but with Lamb and fellow veteran receiver Michael Gallup, the offense has the weapons to get back to having one of the best passing attacks in the league.
The Cowboys have a trio of receivers who all complement each other and make up a well-rounded group. Lamb will continue to be the focal point in the passing game, as he can line up anywhere, and do it all. Cooks brings the speed and can get open quickly with his short area quickness, and has the veteran savvy to find the soft spot in coverages. Gallup is a physical WR who wins on contested throws and should be better with another year removed from his ACL injury in 2021.
With their top three options, the Cowboys have three former 1,000-yard WRs who should all help the passing game improve from last season. There isn’t much depth behind them, but there is still hope that second-year man Jalen Tolbert will take the next step to make a formidable four at WR.
Hopkins would make Dallas’ offense even better, there is little doubt about that. But the contract it would take to sign him makes adding the WR a longshot. The Cowboys could use another veteran receiving option to fill out the depth chart, but it likely won’t be Hopkins.
Do you think the Cowboys should splurge to bring in the 5-time Pro Bowler Hopkins? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.