- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2020

ASHBURN — Ron Rivera was like everyone else in the NFL who found out in March that DeAndre Hopkins had been traded. The Washington coach was surprised.

In perhaps the most shocking non-Tom Brady move of the offseason, the Arizona Cardinals acquired the star wide receiver from the Houston Texans for a 2020 second-rounder, a 2021 fourth-rounder and running back David Johnson. The price was seen as a small cost for a three-time All-Pro wideout.

“We had no sense he was on the market,” Rivera said.

Who could blame him if he wished that he did? No one publicly knows if Washington would have pursued Hopkins if he was known to be available — the team was missing its second-round pick in 2020 due to a previous trade — but Hopkins is the type of star the team could definitely use at wide receiver.

Heck, all teams could use Hopkins — well except for the Texans apparently — but that especially rings true for Washington. In March, Washington struck out on its pursuit of Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper, who turned down north of $100 million from Washington to remain in Dallas on a five-year, $100 million deal in free agency.

Washington viewed Cooper as a star who could have boosted second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Hopkins fits the same profile.

In fact, Hopkins is doing exactly that with Kyler Murray, the second-year passer who went first overall in 2019.

On Sunday, Murray’s connection with Hopkins lifted Arizona to a 24-20 upset over the San Francisco 49ers. Hopkins was targeted 16 times, catching 14 passes for 151 yards.

“DeAndre has a presence about himself,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He presents himself well to any quarterback. I think you’ve seen that. Whoever’s throwing the ball, I think they tend to go to him a lot. He is just a unique player.”

Arizona’s push to acquire Hopkins further stands out as fans clamor for Washington to bolster its receiving corps.

This week, social media buzzed over whether Washington would — or should — attempt to trade for Chicago’s Allen Robinson, the disgruntled Pro Bowl receiver who recently deleted all his social media references to the Bears as he and Chicago have failed to reach a contract extension.  Robinson isn’t seen as the same level of wideout as Hopkins, but he’s had separate 1,000-yard seasons with Mitchell Trubisky and Blake Bortles as his quarterback. He’s elite.

Robinson said Wednesday he expects to remain in Chicago for the rest of the season, though one report indicated he asked for a trade. Robinson, interestingly enough, refused to confirm or deny that request. 

After missing out on Cooper, Washington decided to not make a splashy move at wide receiver this offseason. Instead of pursuing other high-profile names like Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon, it drafted Antonio Gandy-Golden in the fourth round and signed veteran Dontrelle Inman. Rivera said Washington would rely on its youth at the position. Terry McLaurin, too, looks like a star in the making after a promising rookie year.

But there are indications that Washington might not be satisfied with the group, as a whole. Against the Eagles, only three wideouts — McLaurin, Inman and Steven Sims — saw offensive snaps. Gandy-Golden, recovering from a concussion, did not play, while Isaiah Wright and Cam Sims only saw special teams work. Then on Monday, the team brought in five free-agent wide receivers it planned to work out later in the week.

Rivera said the team was “kicking the tires” at adding another receiver to its practice squad. Still, he acknowledged that youth is a concern.

“We had five guys that were up that I have more playing experience than they do,” said Rivera, a former linebacker. “I played nine and there were only eight years of playing experience between those five guys.”

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