Trying to make sense of the DeAndre Hopkins trade
By trading DeAndre Hopkins on Monday, the Houston Texans have left a lot of questions as to why it all happened.
What was the reasoning for such a shocking move for the Houston Texans trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins? Hopkins was playing on a five-year, $81 million deal that would have paid him $12.5 million this season and had no future guaranteed money. In 15 games, the elite wideout accumulated 1,165 receiving yards, seven touchdowns and even threw for one additional score in 2019.
Technically his production had declined from his career highs of 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018, but no one truly thought that he was losing a step in any fashion.
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Alleged friction between head coach Bill O’Brien and Hopkins is another potential reason for the surprising split, but beefing with one of your best players after a first-team All-Pro season isn’t exactly a wise management strategy.
Hopkins apparently wanted to restructure his deal, which had three years remaining, due to some other high profile players at the position who had been rewarded for their otherworldly production.
Here is the list of receivers that make more than Hopkins will this season and their average salaries:
• Julio Jones ($22 million),
• Michael Thomas ($19.25 million)
• Tyreek Hill ($18 million)
• Odell Beckham Jr. ($18 million)
• A.J. Green ($17.97 million)
• Mike Evans ($16.5 million).
Brandin Cooks and Adam Thielen both have the same average salary as Hopkins, $16.2 million, and the case can be made that D-Hop is a Top 3 player out of that entire group.
Now let’s remove money and player-coach friction from the equation and simply look at how this affects the Texans’ performance in 2020. Taking away Deshaun Watson‘s favorite target and security blanket will put a severely unbalanced weight on the rest of the receiving crew.
Will Fuller is a dynamic deep threat but has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and has never been depended on as a No. 1 option. Kenny Stills was an excellent pickup and complementary piece to a high-powered offense, but may hypothetically now be the lead dog if Fuller is to miss any time. As of Monday night, the Texans have also added former Green Bay Packer and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb on a three-year deal.
The Texans entered ’19 with the strongest three-headed monster in the NFL at the receiver position, and now feature a group of pass-catchers that could be described as a liability. Watson has thrived despite a subpar offensive line due to his connection with Hopkins and company, but now must look for other ways to spread the ball around in the face of pressure.
Further complicating matters is David Johnson‘s fit in the Texans offense. If you were injecting ’16 Johnson into the mix, then this would be a major boost to the running game. However, 2018-19 Johnson has averaged less than 3.7 yards a carry, does not play particularly well in a zone-blocking scheme, and failed to even top 400 rushing yards last year.
Johnson is essentially offering the same skill set that Duke Johnson offers but with less explosiveness and a higher price tag. We could all be wrong and witness Johnson revert to his All-Pro days under Tim Kelly’s new offense, but that could be wishful thinking.
The last question that comes to mind is why make this trade at all if the biggest return is a 28-year old running back and a second round pick?
O’Brien has now traded away Jadeveon Clowney and Hopkins, and did not receive a first round pick for either. Adding insult to injury, wide receiver Stefon Diggs was traded Monday evening to the Buffalo Bills for a first rounder, and he is nowhere near the player that Hopkins is. The Texans are understandably strapped for draft picks because of previously ill-advised trades by O’Brien and were clearly trying to dig themselves out of a hole.
The team now possesses the 40th and 57th overall picks and was also awarded a third round compensatory pick at No. 90 overall. The ’20 draft class is loaded with premier talents at the receiver position, but there are needs to find talent in the secondary and possibly more pass rushers as well.
The Texans can still potentially make the postseason if they are able to come out of free agency and the draft with more top-end talent, but right now the future is a lot bleaker than it was yesterday.
With extensions for Watson and Tunsil still necessary, O’Brien may have (fake) punted on the final year of Watson’s mega-cheap rookie deal. It seemed like the team was in win-now mode last year due to all the extreme trades, but now the direction of the franchise is much harder to identify.
Above all else, thank you, Hopkins, for everything you’ve done for this franchise and the positive impact you have made on the Houston community since ’13.