The Houston Texans made a franchise changing trade on Monday with the Arizona Cardinals, saying goodbye to DeAndre Hopkins.
After moving the first-round picks over the next two seasons for the Houston Texans last offseason, Bill O’Brien — the Texans head coach and general manager — moved arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins.
I can’t say that either trade makes much sense.
Before I get into why this is a bad trade for the Texans, let’s address the potential logic that went into making the deal. First, Hopkins had the ability to opt out of his deal and ask for a salary closer to his performance.
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According to spotrac.com Hopkins sits at 17th in terms of salary cap hits for a wide receiver. Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is just north of $20 million dollars per year, a number that Hopkins would have likely ask for.
Despite the fact that Hopkins is arguably the best at his position and has outplayed his contract with the Texans, the team didn’t see him as much of a priority as their left tackle or quarterback.
Getting some draft capital in return and potentially saving cap helps a team looking to sign players long-term.
Now, here is where that logic fails.
David Johnson is a cap hit of just over $11 million dollars, while Hopkins is at $12.5 million. While that is not set in stone considering that Hopkins is likely to get a new deal in Arizona, bringing in $11 million in a deal that should open up cap is missing the mark.
Next season, the Texans could cut Johnson and take a hit of $3 million dollars. So at least for next season, there would be cap relief of over $10 million dollars, but Hopkins is not the type of talent that should be moved as cap relief.
The Texans also swapped their ’20 fourth-round pick in return for the Cardinals’ ’21 fourth-round pick and their ’20 second-round pick. Sure, getting a Top 50 pick in the draft after the exodus of early picks recently is great, but when you look at the value Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper returned, this ain’t it, chief.
Both receivers returned a first-round pick, and neither returned another large cap hit. Bringing Johnson back removes flexibility the Texans would’ve used in free agency this season. O’Brien may believe that he can find the productivity Johnson had in his breakout ’16 season, but it is certainly a lottery ticket.
Also on Monday night, Adam Schefter reported that on the same day of the Hopkins trade, the Minnesota Vikings traded Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for a first-round pick, a fifth-round pick, a sixth-round pick (all this year) and a fourth-round pick next year.
In 2016, Johnson was selected to both the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro, plus totaled over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. However, since then, Johnson has only played in one full season and did not meet the same level of production. Arian Foster was the last All-Pro running back for the Texans and also eclipsed the 2,000-yard from scrimmage mark that season.
With sending away such a valuable player in Hopkins, the hope is that Johnson can return to form and be similar to the production Foster the Texans provided in his prime. The concern would be that he is too far removed from his peak and the team would be getting something similar to Foster after suffering from injuries.
The most baffling part of this deal is that the Texans appear to be in a win-now window. They have what they believe to be their franchise quarterback and left tackle. The trade for Tunsil was an obvious nod to the fact that they are more interested in acquiring proven talent for the Super Bowl push they appear to be on.
Moving a player of Hopkins’ caliber leaves an immediate hole that will take a great draft to replace or some money spent on free agents. Money is obviously an immediate concern, and even with the acquisition of draft picks, the Texans don’t pick until the second round. There is no guarantee that they will get an impact wide receiver there, not to mention the fact that they already had holes at other position still needing to be filled.
They may have found a fix at running back if it all works out. Houston brought a big cap hit rather than a potential bargain in the mid to late rounds at that position.
All of this comes a year after sending a third-round pick to Browns for running back Duke Johnson. Johnson has been good for the team and will likely play a big role in the offense, but this is a lot of value to spend on a position that the league does not generally invest heavily in.
There is still a lot of time for the Texans to bring in players and make sense out of the offseason. With the commitment the Texans are making to signing Tunsil and Watson long-term, they need to hit on these draft picks to allow for the spending they need to do to keep them. I’ll be watching optimistically, even after all this.