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Cardinals Wide Receiver Outlook: Free Agents to be and taking flight with DeAndre Hopkins

Impending free agent Christian Kirk could receive a contract worth over $15 million per year according to NFL reporter Tom Pelissero

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins is regarded by many to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and losing him for nearly half of the 2021 season due to injury affected Arizona’s offense in a big way.

In 10 games with Hopkins, the team went 8-2 and the Cardinals offense averaged 30.2 points per game.

Without their all-pro receiver in eight other games, they averaged only 19.75 points and went 3-5 in that stretch which includes the 34-11 blowout loss in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Kyler Murray-led offense in the final five game of their 2021 season looked mediocre as it averaged only 18.8 points and produced a 1-4 record.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Getting a fully healthy DeAndre Hopkins back in the 2022 season is a must. Despite missing eight games, he still had eight touchdowns this past season. He should be really close to 100% health some time this month if not already.

Moving on and taking a look at the Cardinals other receivers, many were unable to step up in the latter half of the season in the face of injury.

A.J. Green signed a one-year $8 million contract with Arizona last offseason and finished the year with respectable numbers with 54 receptions, 848 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. However, he was held scoreless in the final 11 games of the season. He also have five games where he was limited to one catch or less. Green’s effectiveness dwindled after being the default No. 1 receiver without Hopkins.

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

He was a solid No. 2 receiver but was also made infamous for not turning around in that endzone pass play against the Green Bay Packers that led to a game-ending interception, breaking Arizona’s unbeaten record of 7-0. Considering Green turns 34 in July, expect the Cardinals to look at younger options in free agency and the draft.

What about Christian Kirk?

The Cardinals 2018 second-round pick out of Texas A&M has been one of Kyler Murray’s favorite targets over the last three seasons. He had 77 catches, 982 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in 2021. He had a breakout season of sorts after being moved to his natural position in the slot.

With 2021 second-round pick Rondale Moore expected to receive an expanded role on the offense in the upcoming season, it is highly unlikely the Cardinals will retain Kirk. Pro Football Focus projects Christian Kirk receiving a three years, $39 million with $22 million guaranteed. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said it would not be a shock to see Kirk receive a contract that exceeds $15 million per year.

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

After a near 1,000 yard season and being only 25 years old, Kirk will be a highly-coveted receiver at the start of free agency. I believe the Arizona native has played his last down as a Cardinal for now and he closes out his Cardinal career with 236 receptions, 2,902 receiving yards, 142 rushing yards, and 17 touchdowns.

“I kind of have an open mind with it,” Kirk said of free agency. “I just want to land in the best place I can be. Whether that’s in Arizona or somewhere else, man, I’m blessed to be in this position.”

And speaking of Rondale Moore, he was primarily used in a gadget role last season having not seen many downfield targets in his rookie year. He had 54 catches, 435 receiving yards, 76 rushing yards, and one touchdown.

He had 182 receiving yards and a touchdown in the first two games of the regular season but for some reason, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals opted to limit him to end arounds and pass plays near the line of scrimmage the rest of the way. Moore is a prime candidate for a breakout season in the upcoming league year.

NFL: OCT 17 Cardinals at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Antoine Wesley was extended an exclusive rights free agent tender after hauling in three touchdown in the final four regular season games. The 6-feet-4 24-year-old receiver proved to be a quality depth player for Arizona. Greg Dortch was the Cardinals’ preseason standout receiver and he will have a shot to make the roster again in 2022. 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella is on his way out having played in only 30 offensive snaps in 2021 and has been given permission to seek a trade according to Josina Anderson.

Andre Baccellia is the only receiver signed to a futures deal.

I fully expect the Cardinals to take a strong look at the receiver prospects in the talented 2022 draft class as they search for a No. 2 receiver opposite Hopkins. Some notable names include Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’s Treylon Burks, USC’s Drake London, and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

The 2022 free agent receiver class includes Allen Robinson, D.J. Chark, Michael Gallup, JuJu Smith Schuster, and possibly soon-to-be free agent Amari Cooper.

Who will be the No. 2 wide receiver for the Cardinals in 2022?

Which receiver would you like to see the Cardinals add in free agency or the draft?