Amid Pandemic, Hopkins New Contract Status Unknown

Howard Balzer

It’s been nearly four months since the Cardinals reached agreement on the trade with the Houston Texans that brought wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the desert, but all has been eerily quiet regarding the expected contract restructuring he is expected to receive.

It’s no secret that Hopkins used the wedge of wanting a new deal to expedite his exit out of Houston. It’s also been made clear to SI.com that when general manager Steve Keim consummated the trade and president and chairman Michael Bidwill signed off on it, the team assured agent Todd France that Hopkins would be taken care of.

He has three years remaining on the contract that currently calls for him to be paid non-guaranteed base salaries of $12.5, $13.5 and $13.915 million from 2020-2022 and there have been frequent reports that Hopkins expects a new contract worth in the vicinity of $18 to $20 million a year.

Hopkins, for his part, participated in the team’s offseason virtual meetings and was also present for last week’s private workouts in Dallas, Texas, orchestrated by quarterback Kyler Murray. He has embraced his new team and teammates, so the consequential question is whether — amid the ongoing pandemic and societal unrest — Hopkins might be willing to place the contract issue on the back burner.

When that theory was proposed to league sources by SI.com, it was noted that Keim has a strong relationship with France and that a new deal remains likely.

However, that strong bond and trust could work in reverse given the current circumstances.

Consider that when the trade was consummated in mid-March, no one knew what the ensuing months would look like, much less the season with the coronavirus refusing to “go away,” instead surging over the last month in Arizona.

Assuming the regular season begins on schedule, it’s an extreme long-shot that fans will be in attendance. And if they are, the numbers will be significantly reduced.

A season without any fans will cost the league an estimated $3 billion in revenue, which has a direct effect on the salary cap. That figure each year (plus benefits) is calculated from the previous year’s revenue totals.

The NFL and NFLPA are negotiating a myriad of issues related to COVID-19 and future caps is a major one. No one wants the cap to be reduced in 2021, so it’s likely an agreement will occur in which money from future caps will be borrowed to at least keep next year’s cap at this year’s level of $198.2 million.

Contract planning becomes paramount. While most of the focus each year is on that season’s cap, many of the big-money deals are structured with an eye on future years.

That has become problematical this year because of the revenue uncertainties that also include network television deals that will be up for renewal in 2022. While the prevailing belief is that TV ratings this season will be astronomical, there is still the question of what the viewing experience will be like without the energy that fans help create during games. The league is attempting to offset some of the revenue issues by filling empty stadium seats with oversized advertisement banners.

It’s certainly understandable if the Cardinals are being cautious and they aren’t alone. At the start of the league year, 14 players received franchise tenders and one, Arizona running back Kenyan Drake, was tagged as a transition player.

Currently, 10 players, including Drake, have signed their tenders, but there have been no long-term deals signed. The deadline for more than a one-year contract to be signed is July 15.

Unsigned franchise players are Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngaukoe, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett.

Meanwhile, 30 NFL training camps are scheduled to begin July 28 with teams permitted to have their rookies report a week earlier and quarterbacks two days after the first-years. That July 28 date is 47 days prior to the Sept. 13 Sunday season openers. Kansas City and Houston begin the season on Thursday, Sept. 10, so their reporting date is July 25.

Which brings us back to Hopkins. Will there be a meeting of the minds by the end of July or the start of the season? Or might the Cardinals buy some time and show good faith by guaranteeing most, or all, of the remaining $39.915 million on his current contract?

We will know soon enough.

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