ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (AP) — Standing a few feet from a golf green, Deshaun Watson made a pitch for DeAndre Hopkins to join him in Cleveland.
The Browns quarterback said Tuesday that he has spoken to Hopkins, his close friend and former Houston teammate, and encouraged the three-time All-Pro wide receiver to consider a reunion. Hopkins is a free agent after the Arizona Cardinals released him last week.
“Of course we would love to have him,” Watson said at the Browns charity golf outing. “He knows that we had a lot of connections, but that’s kind of out of my range of things. So all I can do is make a call and see what happens and let AB (Browns general manager Andrew Berry) do the rest.”
The Browns appear to be a longshot to land the 30-year-old Hopkins because of a lack of salary cap space. But Cleveland wasn’t expected to get Watson either until they lured him with a fully guaranteed $230 million contract.
Berry will undoubtedly explore signing Hopkins, who may be out of Cleveland’s price range and will be competing with numerous other teams for his services. Hopkins signed a two-year, $54 million deal with the Cardinals.
Hopkins had been representing himself, but has reportedly hired Kelton Crenshaw of Klutch Sports as his agent.
The idea of throwing again to Hopkins — they were teammates for three seasons — has Watson thinking big. Although Hopkins did not list Cleveland as one of his preferred teams, Watson said that doesn’t mean he has ruled out the Browns.
“I’ll just say this, D-Hop, DeAndre Hopkins would love to be in a place where the opportunity is there for us to win,” Watson said. “We check all those boxes and I think for us to know and make sure we check all those boxes on the national stage, we’ve got to go out there and prove it and I think D-Hop would love to be a part of that.”
In 38 games together with Houston, Watson and Hopkins combined for 3,433 yards and 25 touchdowns. Hopkins made the Pro Bowl each year.
Watson said he and Hopkins had a special chemistry.
“He just makes the throws a lot easier,” Watson said. “His range, catch radius is super. It’s probably the best in the league. Just the things he can do, he just made my job a lot easier. I just put the ball in his direction. He made the plays.”
The Browns upgraded their receiving group in the offseason, but adding a player of Hopkins’ caliber could be a game-changer for a team coming off a 7-10 season.
Hopkins has made it clear he wants to join a contender, and on a podcast last week he rattled off a list of preferred quarterbacks without mentioning Watson.
“It’s all media,” Watson said of the perceived snub. “He don’t have to mention me. Just like if I mentioned the top five receivers and I forget D-Hop. He won’t take that personal because he already knows our relationship and what I believe and what I think about him.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski would not comment on the team’s interest in Hopkins, saying he was pleased with some of its offseason additions.
“I really, really like our wide receiver room,” Stefanski said. “I love the guys that are in there. Andrew and his crew are always looking at every avenue and that type of thing, so I won’t comment specifically on the player other than to say I really like our roster.”