After trading him for an unequal return, were the Houston Texans actually smart to save their money on DeAndre Hopkins?
Due to a personality conflict with head coach/GM Bill O’Brien, and perhaps his desire for a new contract, the Houston Texans traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Carindla in March. It was such a bad deal that Madden wouldn’t clear it.
With the news Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen getting a contact extension, Hopkins was the clear next-man up in terms of wide receivers to get a new deal. On Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Hopkins and the Cardinals have agreed to a two-year, $54.5 contract extension with a $27.5 signing bonus and $42.75 million guaranteed at signing. Hopkins reportedly negotiated the deal himself, so it seems he’ll avoid a pesky full agent commission on his big new deal.
Hopkins is now the highest-paid non-quarterback ever. Rapoport added that the second year is voidable, which could ultimately make it a one-year, $39.585 million deal. But on the surface, Hopkins and the Cardinals are now tied together through 2024.
Were the Texans smart to avoid paying DeAndre Hopkins?
The Texans took on the rest of running back David Johnson’s contract in the Hopkins trade. But he’s only under contract through 2021, and with a $2.1 million dead money hit and $6.9 million in cleared cap space if he were a pre-June 1 cut, moving on would not to be too hard next spring.
In their effort to replace Hopkins with volume of bodies, the Texans signed Randall Cobb to a three-year deal and traded for Brandin Cooks. In the Cooks trade, the Rams took on $21.8 million in dead money for this year. Houston is on the hook for his $8 million in guaranteed salary for this year, but there is no dead money in any of the last three years of Cooks’ contract (through 2023). So if he struggles to stay healthy this season, or just flat-out doesn’t produce well, the Texans can cut bait on Cooks. The ultimate cost would then be $8 million for one year, and the second-round pick in this year’s draft they sent to the Rams in the trade.
If it comes down to a decision to pay a quarterback or a wide receiver at the top of the market, the choice is obvious–pay the quarterback. The Texans, smartly for once under O’Brien’s reign as general manager, have paid Watson.
Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, so it’s obvious the Texans are not better without him. But they will have a better-balanced passing game, which may make Deshaun Watson a more refined and complete quarterback (now there’s a scary thought).
From a financial perspective though, there’s a winning angle for the Texans. They effectively traded a top of the market commitment in 2023 and 2024 on Hopkins for what amount to be one-year full commitments to both Cooks and Johnson. With the deal Watson got and the draft pick capital O’Brien has traded away, ponying up the way the Cardinals did for Hopkins would have made building a deep roster tough in Houston.