When the Houston Texans decided to send DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals to open up NFL free agency, there wasn't an eyebrow around the league that went unraised or a head left unscratched. Arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, the five-time All-Pro was sent packing along with a 2020 fourth-round pick in exchange for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. The trade simply doesn't add up on its face, a nice way of describing how Houston got fleeced, which hints at something having occurred behind the scenes that made Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien delete Deshaun Watson's most prolific weapon from the roster.
Thanks to Michael Irvin, a Hall of Famer who has a strong relationship with Hopkins, the cat may now be out of the bag. Speaking to ESPN on the first day of official NFL free agency, the former Dallas Cowboys superstar wideout launched a nuke at the Texans organization -- by way of a very disturbing set of allegations.
"[Hopkins] told me, 'Michael, it was a bit of a power struggle there because Bill O'Brien thought he had too much influence in the locker room,'" Irvin said. "He called DeAndre Hopkins in a meeting to talk about this -- kind of hash it out. In that meeting, he started the meeting with telling DeAndre Hopkins this -- that blew my mind when DeAndre told me this -- he told DeAndre Hopkins, 'Hey, uh, the last time I had to have a meeting like this, it was with Aaron Hernandez. I was like, 'What?! He [brought up] Aaron Hernandez in this meeting?'
"[Hopkins] said, 'Yes, and Michael, that blew my mind that he would even bring that up. I've never been in any trouble. I don't know why he would even equate me to Aaron Hernandez.'
"And from there, the meeting just deteriorated. He got into talking about DeAndre Hopkins, because DeAndre Hopkins has a few kids from different women, and he told DeAndre that he doesn't like that he has his baby mamas around sometimes. And from there, I think the relationship just went bad, and thus we got a trade of DeAndre Hopkins from Houston for basically, like I said earlier, a ham sandwich.
"All because of that relationship."
Hopkins swiftly responded to Irvin's claims, attempting to reframe the allegations but stopping short of calling them false.
"This is being blown way out of proportion," he wrote on social media. "As I've said before, I enjoyed and am proud of my time with the Texans. I have the utmost respect for Coach O'Brien and that will not change. Now, I'm ready to play for the Cardinals."
With no definitive statement saying Irvin was inaccurate, the world is left to wonder just how fractured the relationship between Hopkins and O'Brien might've actually been. Additional fuel for the divorce may also be found in what is reported to have been a contractual struggle, with Hopkins reportedly wanting a new deal that would pay him between $18 million to $20 million annually, per Dianna Russini of ESPN.
He is currently earning an average of $16.2 million per year -- 11th-ranked among NFL wideouts following the Dallas Cowboys decision to pay Amari Cooper an average of $20 million annually (behind only Julio Jones at $22 million annually). For contrast, while Cooper is a four-time Pro Bowler, Hopkins is a top-3 wide receiver -- at worst -- and seeking pay commensurate with that is justifiable. The report furthers that Hopkins was willing to hold out to get the new deal, but O'Brien and the Texans instead opted to send him packing, with the Cardinals being quite open to awarding him the money he's seeking.
The world may never truly know what went on in Houston that led to what can be fairly graded as one of the worst trades in the history of the league, but Hopkins and the Cardinals have no complaints going forward.