The Tennessee Titans recently signed DeAndre Hopkins, and it was a move that they had no choice but to make. Fans will have mixed feelings, especially given the team's luck with Hall of Fame receivers at the end of their careers, but the Titans still had to take the chance.
When you look at the Titans wide receiver options before this signing, there were just too many questions that no one knew the answer to. The bulk of the expectations would fall on young guys who could take that next step soon, but who would have to take a step forward while also becoming more consistent. That is a lot to ask in the NFL.
The signing of Hopkins adds consistency and proven big-play ability, and his addition should make the lives of so many other players that much easier.
Even then, it is not hard to admit that he is past his peak, and the fear of him underperforming like Julio Jones is far from illegitimate. But there are still very real reasons to believe that this one could be different from the rest, which is why cautious optimism is the way to go here.
Tennessee Titans can be both excited and worried about DeAndre Hopkins
Let's start this by addressing the narrative that the Titans always miss on superstar wide receivers who are late in their careers. It is true that several older big-name guys have come to Tennessee and done almost nothing, but you have to remember that each individual case is different.
Randy Moss and Andre Johnson were washed and known as such well before they joined the Titans, and Moss was on his third team of the SEASON when he arrived. Hopkins is clearly not in that boat, so let's just stop with those comparisons.
The Julio Jones comparisons are valid however, as the trade for him was a blockbuster move to take the Titans over the top, and it of course did not work out. Even then, there are several differences that make this move more sensible than the one from two years ago, as Mike Herndon indicated right after the signing.
Julio Jones' game was predicated more on athletic abilities that clearly peak at a certain age, and once he got older those vanished, and so did his health. Not to mention that he was experiencing the same injury issues the year before, so the Titans could have seen that coming in hindsight.
On the other hand, Hopkins is not someone who wows you with his speed, and his yards-after-catch abilities are adequate but nothing spectacular. He also knows how to play physically -- which does not mean relying on physical qualities -- and in terms of pure hands, is one of the best wideouts we have seen in the past decade.
Hopkins' injury history is also much less concerning than Jones', as the only major one he has ever had was a sprained MCL in 2021. The tape from the previous season showed that it is not holding him back at all.
Hopkins is not near as reliant on those rare, but time-sensitive qualities as Jones was, and the only injury he suffered was a fluke. Not to mention, Hopkins consistently played at a high-level last year, which cannot be said for Jones the year before he was traded to the Titans.
Purely from an on-field standpoint, they have a better chance of getting way more out of Hopkins than they got out of Moss, Johnson, or Jones.
And let's say that the worst worst-case scenario happens and Hopkins suffers an injury or is by other means prevented from playing a single snap for the Titans. Well, they did not trade a second-round pick for him, and the contract they gave him was very low-risk so that alone makes this a better move than the trade for Jones.
But of course, we do have to acknowledge the risks that come with this move, and it is not just due to the fact that Hopkins is now 31. He was suspended for the first six games of 2022 for PED use, and that is the biggest worry here.
Even though his strengths are not those that rapidly decline due to age and wear and tear, when your body starts to break down on you it is difficult to overcome no matter how you play. Several players have had PED suspensions decently far into their careers and come back strong, but how it could affect Hopkins is a concern.
And even if he did not have the PED suspension, he is still 31 and obviously past his prime. Once you get to that point, it seems to be a matter of when and not if the decline will really start, so we just have to hope that is not anytime soon for Hopkins.
Even for the chances the Titans are taking here, they nowhere near justify not bringing him in. At the end of the day, the idea of Hopkins declining is just that, an idea, and until we see it really happen he is a commodity in this league.
He is a perfect fit for the Tennessee Titans needed. He is a legit boundary threat and will undoubtedly garner the respect of the defense. He may no longer be a top-three receiver in the game, but he still takes a lot of weight off others' shoulders, which will significantly benefit Treylon Burks and his potential for a breakout season.
The evidence suggests that the Titans are getting a very good player at a huge position of need, and that makes this move necessary. But there is still real potential that it does not work out, so the team and fans should be prepared for that, but should also be excited for a move that could complete their offense.