Brian Wacker: Do the Ravens need star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins? It’s a complicated question.

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BALTIMORE — If in quarterback Lamar Jackson’s view “running can only take you so far” in the modern NFL, how far would signing three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins take the Ravens?

With the Arizona Cardinals releasing Hopkins on Friday, it’s a question worth asking. It’s also a complicated one.

Hopkins said on the “I Am Athlete” podcast last week that Jackson is one of his favorite athletes and he would welcome the opportunity to team up with the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player. Likewise, Jackson during his contract extension negotiations with Baltimore asked the organization if it was possible to acquire Hopkins, along with Odell Beckham Jr. So, the mutual admiration is there.

But while the Ravens added Beckham, it seems unlikely they’ll land Hopkins, too.

Already, general manager Eric DeCosta told Jackson that it would be too costly to acquire both star receivers. But that was when Hopkins was still on the Cardinals’ roster and the rebuilding team was looking to trade him. Now that the five-time Pro Bowl selection is hitting the open market, all it would cost the Ravens is money.

Still, it’s not that simple.

First, there are other potential suitors, notably the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Both are championship-caliber teams led by superstar quarterbacks that would be immediately elevated with the addition of a receiver who has produced 11,298 yards and 71 touchdowns over 10 seasons and has some of the best hands in the sport. Both teams would also have to get creative with just $1.4 million and $652,000 in salary cap space, respectively, according to Over The Cap.

There are other teams with possible interest, too. The New York Jets lost out on Beckham but could use an established star at the position for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and have more cap space ($6.4 million) than the Bills and Chiefs. The Cleveland Browns also have just over $6.9 million in cap space and Hopkins’ former quarterback Deshaun Watson. The two spent three seasons together with the Houston Texans, and Watson said Tuesday he would “love” to have Hopkins in Cleveland. The New York Giants, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots are also in need of a No. 1 wide receiver, and the Dallas Cowboys are always in the conversation when it comes to adding stars.

Where do the Ravens fit in?

It’s been noted ad nauseam that the Ravens’ wide receivers finished last in the NFL in receiving yards last season and that the position has historically been a weak spot for the team. Adding Beckham, who missed all of last season while he recovered from a torn ACL, veteran Nelson Agholor and first-round pick Zay Flowers to pair with a healthy Rashod Bateman, who underwent season-ending foot surgery after six games last year, will certainly change that. Including Hopkins, though, would give the Ravens the dominant outside receiver they’ve never had and elevate the room into perhaps one of the best in the league.

They also have the resources to do so with $11.8 million in cap space. Though some of that will get eaten up when they sign Flowers and inevitably fill other needs, they could find the necessary room by restructuring some players’ contracts to push more cap money into the future, even if DeCosta has been reticent to do so in the past.

In a vacuum, it might seem like a no-brainer to sign Hopkins. But there are myriad questions, challenges and risks of doing so.

For one, Hopkins has missed 15 games over the past two seasons because of injuries and a suspension last year for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. For another, he turns 31 in June.

While plenty of receivers have had success into their 30s — including former Raven Derrick Mason after he arrived from the Tennessee Titans in 2005 — it’s not the norm. And after Hopkins missed just two games his first eight years in the NFL, a hamstring injury and torn MCL caused him to miss six in 2021. He has also battled an ankle issue in recent years and his addition would give the Ravens three receivers 30 or older alongside Beckham and Agholor.

Then there’s the fact, as new offensive coordinator Todd Monken pointed out earlier this month, that there’s “only one ball” to go around.

Sure, winning makes things easier in that regard, as Jackson said last week. But between Hopkins, Beckham, Bateman, Flowers, Agholor, tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, that’s a lot of mouths to feed, injuries not withstanding. The addition of Hopkins, who has averaged just over 10 targets per game in his career, would make it that much harder for others to get the amount of touches they want.

Yet, there’s no denying Hopkins’ talent and what he would bring to Baltimore.

Over the past three seasons, he has dropped just three passes on 315 targets, good for the lowest rate of any receiver in the NFL who has been targeted at least 175 times in that span. He would instantly become Jackson’s No. 1 target in a division and conference in which the Ravens need to catch up through the air with an offense that both Monken and Jackson have said will throw more. And he is probably a future Hall of Famer.

But the better question than how far Hopkins would take the Ravens is, would he be worth it?