Bill O'Brien has taken flack for what's arguably the worst move of the NFL offseason, trading away DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals as the Houston Texans took on David Johnson and his remaining contract, an albatross for a running back in today's NFL. O'Brien finally had a chance to explain why he would trade arguably the best wide receiver in football with little return.
"I would say the deal with Arizona was a deal that we thought was in the best interest of our team," O'Brien said on a conference call with reporters, per Sports Radio 610 in Houston. "DeAndre Hopkins was a great football player for us here. He made so many plays for us. We love DeAndre Hopkins. But he had three years left on his deal and he wanted a raise. We weren't going to be able to go in that direction."
Hopkins had three years and $39.9 million remaining on a five-year deal he signed in 2017, a bargain for a player of his production. Hopkins ranks second in catches (393), third in yards (5,069) and third in touchdowns (35) over the past four seasons, ranking right up there with Julio Jones and Michael Thomas amongst the league leaders.
Jones and Thomas received their deals over the past year, so Hopkins was due for a raise. Hopkins is currently the 14th highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL in terms of average annual salary, counting the remaining years on his contract. O'Brien just didn't want to deal with the business of the NFL, even though he is a general manager.
"There's a lot of things that go into trades. How much are you going to keep on contractually? What type of player are you bringing in? What type of player are you losing? And what is in the best interest of the team? Capital T. Capital E. Capital A. Capital M," O'Brien said. "Every decision we make as long as I'm the football coach here, will always be made in the best interest of the team."
The Texans traded Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Cardinals for Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. That's not nearly enough for a player of Hopkins' caliber, especially since he had 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
In comes Johnson and the remaining two years and $20,156,250 he's owed, a huge amount for a running back that had just 345 yards and two touchdowns last season (3.7 yards per carry). Johnson was benched in favor of Chase Edmonds and Kenyan Drake in Arizona, leaving the Cardinals stuck with a contract that appeared untradeable.
Then O'Brien stepped in and gave them a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
"We felt we had a great offer from Arizona that included picks, it involved an excellent three-down running back who's hungry and humble and can't wait to get started," O'Brien said. "David Johnson is going to be a great addition to our football team."