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DeAndre Derby: Hopkins Signing With Patriots? Titans? 'Lurking' Browns? Navy SEALs?!

ESPN NFL insider Sal Paolantonio believes DeAndre Hopkins will wind up with the New England Patriots, but not without a fight from other teams.

As we wait for coveted free-agent receiver DeAndre Hopkins to choose his landing spot, the decision is between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. Or is it?

While the 31-year-old, five-time All-Pro recently visited both the Pats and Titans, another team - or two - might still be in the fold. ESPN long-time NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio says that the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers are "lurking" and are still realistic bidders in the DeAndre Derby.

That said, Paolantonio appeared on ESPN radio Tuesday morning and reiterated that he believes New England remains the clear front-runner. Asked if he thinks Hopkins will wind up in Foxboro, Sal said:

"I believe so. There's mutual interest. Bill Belichick likes DeAndre Hopkins ... likes his game. And DeAndre likes the situation in New England ... knows Bill O'Brien. It's a perfect fit at a time when New England needs a receiver that can get separation."

Most observers agree that the Patriots should be "Hoptomistic" about signing DeAndre. But, for a couple reasons, Paolantonio reminded that it's not a done deal.

"When you go to New England, you're going to the Navy SEALs," he said. "You're going to a different kind of culture. DeAndre has to understand that if he goes there, he's going to have to fit in."

Added Sal, "Carolina is lurking ... Cleveland is lurking for sure."

While the Titans made Hopkins a contract offer, we're not sure if Belichick has done the same. But Sal is right, in an AFC East where the Pats have slipped to fourth place the addition of Hopkins is almost crucial if they want a realistic chance at the playoffs.

"The Patriots are trying to be relevant," he said. "You bring in DeAndre Hopkins and he is going to transform them into sort of a buzz right away."

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