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Deshaun Watson 'would love' to have free-agent WR DeAndre Hopkins sign with Browns

DeAndre Hopkins' release on Friday provided fresh fuel for the NFL's summer speculation carousel, which had admittedly started to run out of steam late last week.

The holiday weekend included plenty of discussions revolving around Hopkins' next destination. Count Cleveland -- home of former Hopkins teammate Deshaun Watson -- as one of the potential landing spots for the All-Pro receiver.

Hopkins has been atop the wishlist of Browns fans since late February, when the arrival of a new regime called his future in Arizona into question. As time eventually proved, a Hopkins trade didn't make sense for Cleveland, or any other club.

Now that he's available as a free agent, though, folks in Northeast Ohio have revived their campaign to bring him to the Browns. Count Watson among them.

"Well, me and D-Hop, we just naturally talk," Watson said on Tuesday during an appearance at the Browns' annual charity golf outing, per the Orange and Brown Report. "We been talking since the Houston days. And then also whenever he left for Arizona, we were always talking, so he's always been a brother of mine since I was coming out of high school. Our connection, our relationship has always been great.

"I know there's a lot of things swirling around in the media of him possibly coming to Cleveland. For me, my answer to that is of course we would love to have him. He knows that. We had a lot of connections. But that's kind of out of my range of things of kind of coordinating things. All I can do is make a call and see what happens and let A.B. (general manager Andrew Berry) do the rest."

Adding Hopkins doesn't make the most sense as it pertains to roster construction and salary cap management for the Browns. Cleveland has $6.9 million available in remaining cap space, per Over The Cap, which isn't much, but is more than what the Bills and Chiefs can currently use to add the veteran receiver.

The Browns also don't have as much of a need at the position as they did in March. Cleveland acquired former Jets second-round pick Elijah Moore via trade, signed veteran Marquise Goodwin and drafted Tennessee receiver Cedric Tillman in April, filling out a room that will see at least a few receivers battling for roster spots in August.

Adding Hopkins to that group would improve a corps that already includes Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, but the price has to be right. Hopkins is seemingly aware of how the financial aspect could complicate matters, hiring agent Kelton Crenshaw of Klutch Sports to represent him after previously representing himself, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski predictably tap-danced around the topic when asked about it Tuesday, telling reporters he was happy with who is already on the Browns' roster.

"I really, really like our wide receiver room," Stefanski said, per "I love the guys that are in there. Andrew and his crew are always looking at every avenue and that type of thing. I won't comment specifically on the player, other than to say I really like our roster."

Stefansi is understandably playing it safe. Adding Hopkins would raise the ceiling of an offense that is expected to be better through the air than it was in 2022, a truncated season in which Watson didn't debut until Week 13 after serving an 11-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.

Plenty of suitors are expected to be lining up for meetings with Hopkins, who has six 1,000-yard seasons to his name in his 10-year NFL career. We'll see if Watson's presence in Cleveland gives the Browns a legitimate chance -- if they even want one.

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