It's not often that two Pro Bowl-caliber skill position players become free agents in the same offseason. So, when wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Dalvin Cook hit the open market, the New England Patriots -- who could use more offensive firepower -- started working the phones.
Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh confirmed Wednesday the team hosted Hopkins for a workout and has at least explored the possibility of signing Cook.
"We explore every option that’s out there," Groh told reporters after the Patriots' first public training camp practice at Gillette Stadium. "DeAndre became available pretty early on in the spring; obviously there were reports even before he was released.
"Spent time working on it. We exhaust every option; we had him in here, talked to him. .. I know we were one of the teams mentioned that was most prevalent, but we exhausted our options and did what we thought made the most sense."
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The Patriots indeed were legitimate suitors for Hopkins before the wideout agreed to a two-year, $26 million contract with the Tennessee Titans on July 16. According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, New England offered Hopkins a similar contract but with a greater percentage of his salary tied to incentives instead of being fully guaranteed, leading the five-time Pro Bowler to choose Tennessee over New England.
The Patriots had plenty of cap space to match or exceed the Titans' offer for Hopkins, so you could argue this was a missed opportunity given the team's lack of elite offensive weapons. The team did acquire wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki this offseason, however, and Groh seems optimistic about what Smith-Schuster in particular can bring to the table.
"The guy is working," Groh said of Smith-Schuster. "He wants to compete, he loves ball, and is tough."
As for Cook, who remains unsigned as of Wednesday, Groh suggested the team has done its due diligence and thinks highly of the former Minnesota Vikings star.
"We explore as many options as we can. Dalvin’s another player," Groh said. "This is a really, really unique situation with both (Hopkins and Cook). You don’t typically have players of this caliber available at this time. The contracts that are signed for players right now are nowhere near in the neighborhood of the contracts that these players are generally expected to sign. Usually these are all minimum guys.
"So, this is a unique situation, and any unique situation, I think everybody evaluates and looks at. With Dalvin, we saw first-hand last year in Minnesota on Thanksgiving what he can do."
While the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Patriots reportedly are among the "top contenders" for Cook, New England also hosted a pair of lower-profile running backs -- Leonard Fournette and Darrell Henderson -- for workouts and may choose a similar path by declining to devote significant financial resources to a player like Cook.
But Groh also insisted the team's work isn't done yet.
"We’ll keep looking at different options," he added. "I like taking care of business. … We’re trying to be pretty proactive with things."