NFL free agency has begun with a bang, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signing quarterback Tom Brady to a multiyear deal worth $30 million per year. It was a stunning development as Brady departs the New England Patriots after compiling a stellar twenty year with the franchise that he led to six Super Bowl titles.
As surprising as Brady’s defection to Tampa Bay is to many, there’s an acquisition by another NFL team that defies all logic. The Houston Texans traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 second round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson and a 2021 fourth round pick. Hopkins is a four time Pro Bowl selection and regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Hopkins and Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson were considered one of the NFL’s best wide receiver/quarterback tandems. Now they are no longer teammates.
Hopkins wanted a contract extension from Houston that would pay him between $18 and $20 million annually. But Texans’ head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien would have none of that. O’Brien felt that Hopkins had too much influence in the Texans’ locker room, and apparently wanted to show his Pro Bowl receiver how expendable he was.
The decision to trade Hopkins baffles the mind. Johnson is a capable running back that should fit into the Texans’ offensive scheme nicely. He enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2016, when he rushed for 1,239 yards and caught 80 passes with the Cardinals. It will be hard to imagine Johnson returning to his 2016 form. Injuries limited him to playing only 30 of a possible 48 games from 2017 to 2019. In contrast, Hopkins has missed only two games in a seven year NFL career that has seen him record 632 receptions. That total is tied for the second most receptions during a player’s first seven seasons in NFL history.
Hopkins denied there was a rift between himself and O’Brien. Nevertheless, one will ever know what was really behind Hopkins’ departure from Houston. In 2020, O’Brien and the Texans’ offense will be expected to find a way to replace what Hopkins brought to the table. While O’Brien’s job as head coach and general manager isn’t in imminent jeopardy, it could be if Houston can’t build on last year’s playoff run in 2020.