With or without DeAndre Hopkins, what's the future for Donovan Peoples-Jones?

Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders
Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The recent rumors connecting free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the Cleveland Browns have led to trade speculation surrounding current Browns receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ). These trade talks have nothing to do with DPJ's inability to be a top receiver on this team. In fact, it's the opposite.

DPJ's performance and continued progression over his first three seasons might already have priced him out of the Browns budget for 2024 and beyond. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the former sixth-round pick has racked up 109 receptions for 1,740 yards and 8 touchdowns. 2022 was his best season yet with 61/839/3.

So here's the problem, and it's a good problem for the Browns. Projecting a full season playing with Deshaun Watson, DPJ has every chance to further bolster his impressive stats. He's an excellent receiving threat with a skillset that blends perfectly with fellow receivers Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore.

Whether or not the Browns actually sign Hopkins, the situation remains the same for the Browns and DPJ: he's in his final year with the team and he will undoubtedly be one of--if not the--top wide receivers on the free agent market in 2024.

Unless the Browns exercise the franchise tag, DPJ is in the driver's seat. According to Over The Cap, it will cost the Browns $23.45M to franchise tag DPJ in 2024. For positional reference, wide receiver Amari Cooper will be $23.7M against the cap in 2024. It's just not likely the Browns will choose to (or even be able to) allocate almost $50M to two wide receivers considering the other large contracts already in place.

This projection is further strengthened by the Browns heavy investment at the wide receiver position this offseason. The team used the 42nd pick in the NFL Draft to acquire third-year receiver Elijah Moore from the New York Jets, and then they used the 74th pick to draft receiver Cedric Tillman. And Tillman brings a skillset to the team that is very similar to DPJ's.

Next. 4 Former Cleveland Browns players who might be done in the NFL. 4 Former Cleveland Browns players who might be done in the NFL. dark

As of now, the top free agent wide receivers in 2024 will be a 31-year old Mike Evans and a 30-year old Corey Davis. Unless the Browns and DPJ come to a multi-year contract extension prior to or during the 2023 season, DPJ will hit NFL free agency on top of the wide receiver market in 2024.