Just about everyone had the same reaction to the Arizona Cardinals’ trade for DeAndre Hopkins.
It was began with realizing the entirety of the trade packages from both sides had already been laid out by initial reports. Then you probably re-read the details to make sure you didn’t miss anything. At that point, it struck you how lopsided it was in the Cardinals’ favor.
Arizona essentially traded a second-round pick to the Houston Texans for Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the NFL, while also getting to dump David Johnson’s salary on them. Fourth-round picks were also swapped, but as a whole it seemed too good to be true for Arizona.
FOX football insider Charles Davis is still waiting for more to trickle out regarding the move.
“I would also say that a lot of us had similar thoughts like, ‘What are we missing?’” he asked Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “And I’ve said it consistently from the beginning, I’m gonna say it until proven different: I feel like there’s something we don’t know that still has to come out of why that deal was made.”
There are a couple of potential answers.
ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Wednesday that Hopkins wanted his current contract restructured before the start of the 2020 season in the $18-20 million range, and that if he didn’t get the deal, he wasn’t going to show up.
Teams being aware that’s what they’d have to pay Hopkins to get him to play could explain the low selling price.
There’s also the unique situation the Texans find themselves in with head coach Bill O’Brien also having a general manager title.
That leaves O’Brien and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby, whose background is as a character coach with emphasis on team cultural development, with tons of decision-making power. With less voices in the room, O’Brien logically has less resistance to make questionable moves.
Hopkins and O’Brien’s relationship was reportedly not good in the slightest, per The Houston Chronicle, and O’Brien simply wanted to move on from a player he didn’t want to coach anymore no matter the return.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Hopkins’ practice habits combined with his desire for a new contract were a bad combination.
On Sundays, he was exemplary. The rest of the week, his practice habits (he didn’t practice much at all) became a problem, and because he was such a big star he had the ability to carry teammates in the wrong direction—guys who might not be able to turn it on come game day as easily as he could. And that was, if not easy, manageable. That said, it’s one thing to keep a guy who may not totally align with the program on an existing contract. It’s another to reward him with a new contract with three years left on that deal, and have to handle the message it sends to the locker room. And those intangible elements, by the way, are central to how EVP Jack Easterby is trying to help O’Brien rework the organization.
Regardless, as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote, no mitigating factors like having to possibly pay Hopkins big long-term money will change the fact that the move is a terrific trade for the Cardinals.
… This is a trade Arizona should and would make 100 times out of 100, regardless of the moves it made before the deal. The Cardinals will likely rip up the three years and $39.9 million remaining on Hopkins’ deal and give him an extension, and while that will make him less valuable in terms of surplus value, adding a truly special talent to the roster is an easy victory for the Cards.