DeAndre Hopkins

NFC Notes: Clowney, Cards, Giants, Panthers

A notable development transpired in Jadeveon Clowney‘s near-fourth-month free agency odyssey Tuesday. The Browns’ Olivier Vernon restructure points to them giving the Vernon-Myles Garrett pairing another year and bowing out on Clowney. This would eliminate a high-paying suitor from the sweepstakes. The Seahawks remain in the running for Clowney, but Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes they are not going to offer a deal in the $15-$16MM-AAV ballpark like they did earlier this offseason. Seattle’s offer in this neighborhood occurred several weeks ago, but the team is still in need at edge rusher. Clowney now has an offer in hand from the Raiders, but they were viewed as a “distant third.” However, with the Browns perhaps out, the Raiders may have moved up to second. At just more than $13MM in cap space, the Seahawks hold more than the Raiders ($8MM).

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins lined up as teammates for the first time, with the new Cardinals duo joining several teammates in Texas for a workout. Despite the NFLPA issuing directives for players not to gather for workouts, as the COVID-19 pandemic sets records (with Texas being a hot spot) in recent days. But other teams — most notably the Buccaneers — have seen select personnel conven for pre-training camp work. The Cards’ workout took place nearby where Murray went to high school, just north of Dallas.
  • Seahawks second-round pick Marquise Blair will compete with Bradley McDougald for the team’s starting strong safety job, opposite Quandre Diggs, but Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes the second-year player is also a candidate to be Seattle’s nickel back. Blair played just 219 snaps as a rookie, though Pete Carroll said he is “very interested” in getting him on the field this season. Ugo Amadi, a 2019 fourth-rounder, will serve as Blair’s primary competition for Seattle’s nickel role. Amadi played just 76 defensive snaps as a rookie.
  • The Giants hired their first female scout, naming Hannah Burnett as their Midlands scout. Burnett’s most notable NFL experience came with the Falcons, for whom she attended pro days and the Combine. In addition to Burnett, the Giants named Marquis Pendleton their northeast area scout and added Nick Williams as an offensive assistant. Pendleton has worked in a different scouting capacity with the team since 2016; Williams spent the past three seasons as Southern Illinois’ wide receivers coach.
  • The Panthers did not renew the contracts of scouts Don Warren and Clyde Powers, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Both staffers were Dave Gettleman hires. Warren was a three-time Super Bowl champion as a tight end with the Redskins, for whom he also worked as a scout prior to his Panthers stay.

DeAndre Hopkins Leaves CAA

Newly-minted Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins is changing agents. Per Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, Hopkins is leaving Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and he will be eligible to sign with a new agent on Sunday (Twitter link).

The move is particularly notable because of Hopkins’ contract status. The star receiver, who went to the desert in a shocking trade between the Cardinals and Texans earlier this offseason, still has three years remaining on his current deal, but he has been negotiating a new pact with Arizona. He has indicated that he is not demanding a new contract, but the Cardinals are amenable to giving him one if the price is right.

Apparently, Hopkins was less than thrilled about how negotiations were going between CAA and the Cardinals. CAA is easily the top player agency in professional sports and counts Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford among its most notable NFL clients, but its reputation wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Recent rumors have suggested that Hopkins’ next deal could make him the highest-paid non-QB in the league. However, given that he remains under club control through 2022, and considering the league-wide concern in giving out massive extensions in the current financial climate, that could be a tough sell. We will see if his new agency — assuming he does not choose to represent himself — can make more headway in that regard.

Hopkins joins an Arizona offense that has the potential to be explosive in 2020. The three-time First Team All-Pro has averaged over 90 catches per season for roughly 1,230 yards and eight TDs over his first seven years in the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Tried To Trade For DeAndre Hopkins

The Ravens were among the teams that attempted to trade for wideout DeAndre Hopkins before the Texans dealt him to the Cardinals last month, according to Michael Silver of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Ultimately, Houston sent Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to Arizona in exchange for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-rounder, and a 2021 fourth-rounder, a price that Baltimore was apparently unwilling to meet. The Ravens, who didn’t sign any free agent wide receivers in March, are currently set to return Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and Miles Boykin as their top-three wideouts in 2020.

Of course, the fact that Baltimore was interested in acquiring Hopkins means the club could be eyeing a wide receiver early in the 2020 draft. Baltimore holds the 28th overall selection plus two second-round picks, and could use one of those slots on a pass-catcher in what is considered a historically deep class.

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NFC West Notes: Brady, Hundley, Hopkins

At multiple points during this offseason’s Tom Brady saga, we heard that the 49ers‘ reported interest in the legendary signal-caller was perhaps largely driven by Brady’s camp and that San Francisco was not legitimately considering the 42-year-old. But regardless of how serious their discussions were, 49ers GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan at least explored the possibility.

“When you’re talking about one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time with Tom Brady, of course you’re going to have some internal discussion,” Lynch recently said in an interview on The Rich Eisen Show (via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). “So of course Kyle and I have discussions. … But within a day or two, Kyle and I looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, we really like what we have in Jimmy [Garoppolo].’ … I would tell you we’re more convinced than ever about who our quarterback is in Jimmy Garoppolo.”

Though he had a disappointing showing in the 49ers’ Super Bowl LIV loss, Garoppolo has largely justified the team’s steep investment in him, so it stands to reason that Lynch and Shanahan would continue moving forward with Brady’s former (and much younger) understudy.

Now for more from the NFC West:

  • Per TMZ Sports, Cardinals backup QB Brett Hundley is being sued by his ex-wife, who is alleging that Hundley assaulted her both before and after their marriage. The suit is outside of the statute of limitations, and while the accuser’s attorney believes they will be able to overcome that hurdle, Hundley’s attorney says the action is nothing more than an extortion attempt and that Hundley will be filing a counterclaim. Arizona recently re-signed Hundley to serve as Kyler Murray‘s QB2.
  • Newly-minted Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins may not be demanding a new deal from Arizona, but the two sides are talking contract just the same. Hopkins has three years (and no guaranteed money) remaining on his existing deal, but former NFL agent and current CBS Sports pundit Joel Corry says the club has no qualms about renegotiating. Corry explores the two approaches the team could take: either adding money to Hopkins’ current deal — i.e. turning the roughly $40MM that remains due to be spread out over the next three years into $50MM-$54MM — or a more conventional extension that adds time and more guarantees to the current contract. Corry’s piece is well-worth a read for Cards fans.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks have not closed the door on a Jadeveon Clowney return.

DeAndre Hopkins Isn’t “Demanding” New Contract From Cardinals

While DeAndre Hopkins‘ demands for an extension or raise may have led to his ouster from Houston, it doesn’t sound like the star wideout is making the same requests from his new team. In a fascinating profile of Hopkins, Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop writes that the receiver isn’t “demanding” a new contract from the Cardinals.

However, the two sides are indeed discussing a new deal. In fact, there’s belief that Hopkins’ next contract could make him the “the highest-paid nonquarterback in the NFL.” That title currently belongs to Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, who’s earning $23.5MM per season. Falcons receiver Julio Jones is the highest-paid player at his position, taking home $22MM per season.

Back in 2017, Hopkins signed a lucrative five-year extension that includes $49MM in guaranteed money. Unfortunately for the star wideout, that contract soon became antiquated, and the remaining three seasons on the deal are non-guaranteed. In terms of average annual value, Hopkins currently ranks eighth among wide receivers.

Still, while his contract may be outdated, that’s not as much of a concern now that he’s playing for a new team. As Hopkins told Bishop, he had been looking to move on from the Texans for some time, and his desire for a trade was mostly due to his lack of a relationship with Texans head coach Bill O’Brien (who, Hopkins believes, was trying to trade him for more than a year). The receiver understood that “asking for a little raise would lead to the outcome…that I wanted.”

That premonition ended up becoming a reality. Back in March, the Texans sent Hopkins and a fourth-rounder to Arizona for running back David Johnson, a second-rounder, and a fourth-rounder.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans’ Bill O’Brien On DeAndre Hopkins Trade

The Texans have been roundly criticized for the DeAndre Hopkins trade, but head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t seem to be having any second thoughts about the swap. In a virtual press conference with reporters, O’Brien defended the deal that brought running back David Johnson to Houston. 

[RELATED: David Johnson Passes Texans Physical]

We feel very, very good about being able to get the 40th pick, being able to get David Johnson,” O’Brien said (via Reuters). “We feel really good about when we looked at the analytics of it, based on the production that was leaving our team and the production that we were bringing in, and then what we were able to do. Again, it’s very incomplete, and we have several roster moves left to go, including a draft and all the other things that I mentioned earlier. So we feel very good about the value that we got from the trade.”

The Texans didn’t stop dealing after that. Soon after shipping Hopkins to the Cardinals, they sent their original 2020 second-rounder to the Rams for Brandin Cooks while holding on to the No. 40 pick from Arizona. In short, they dealt one of the game’s most dangerous wide receivers for a lesser receiver with a history of concussions and once elite running back who has been slowed by multiple injuries. Fans in Houston are none-too-pleased, but O’Brien is asking them to be patient.

I think the best thing I can tell the fans is to please — because I know the media’s job is to evaluate right away, I get that, I have a lot of respect for the media, I’ve always said that — but I think we have to let it all play out,” O’Brien said. “Let it play out. Let the whole thing play out, whether it’s that trade or anything else that we’ve done. I’d say let’s review it a year from now, two years from now, three years from now. Let’s let it all play out.

In a “down” 2019, Hopkins still managed 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson, meanwhile, carried the ball just 94 times and averaged 3.7 yards per try.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On NFL Draft’s Top WRs

The Cardinals have themselves a star wide receiver after trading for DeAndre Hopkins, but this year’s WR class is talented enough to tempt every team. Even though the Cardinals may like Kyler Murray‘s one-time teammate CeeDee Lamb and other WR talents, they’re not expected to use their No. 8 pick on a receiver, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears.

With Hopkins installed as the Cardinals’ new WR1, Arizona will likely address larger needs with that pick – perhaps a stud defensive player or an offensive lineman. Then, somewhere around Nos. 11 or 12, where the Jets and Raiders pick, Rapoport expects the WR run to take flight. In that scenario, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy stand out as likely candidates – they’re the consensus top receivers in this wildly talented crop, Rapoport hears.

Further down the board, the Eagles have been heavily connected to LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson. But, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) cautions that several teams could jump ahead of the Birds at No. 21 to land him. The Vikings (Nos. 22 and 25), Patriots (No. 23), and the Saints (No. 24) are all lurking, and they could make a play for a big-time WR like Jefferson.

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Cardinals Discussing Deals With DeAndre Hopkins, Kenyan Drake

Although DeAndre Hopkins and Kenyan Drake are in different contractual situations, both players are on the Cardinals’ agenda this offseason. More developments on this front emerged Wednesday.

Cards GM Steve Keim said he has engaged in discussions with the agents for both of the team’s recently acquired skill-position players. This follows a report that indicated he had spoken directly with Hopkins about his contract, which runs through 2022.

Both those guys are guys we’d like to have long-term,” Keim said, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Again, if it makes our organization better and the opportunity arises, we will certainly do that. I’ve had communication with both their agents. We’ll continue to pound away. The draft is the most important part right now, but we will continue to have ongoing talks with both of those players’ agents.”

Drake signed his $8.5MM transition tender last month and now has a firm grip on the Cardinals’ starting running back job after the Hopkins trade included David Johnson. The Cardinals just freed themselves from what became an albatross contract, with Johnson struggling to deliver on the $13MM-per-year deal he signed in 2018.

Bill O’Brien confirmed Hopkins wanted a raise. While Nuk’s deal topped every other receiver’s when he signed it in 2017, the $16.2MM-AAV pact is now barely inside the top 10 among receivers. Teams rarely commit to new contracts for players signed for three more seasons, but the Cardinals trading for Hopkins may make this a special circumstance. With Larry Fitzgerald on a year-to-year track, Hopkins now profiles as Arizona’s No. 1 long-term target. The three-time All-Pro will surely pursue a deal that approaches Julio Jones‘ $22MM-AAV accord.

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David Johnson Passes Texans Physical

Great news for David Johnson and bad news for Texans fans who were hoping for the DeAndre Hopkins trade to be nullified. The running back has passed his physical exam, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Texans Trade DeAndre Hopkins To Cardinals, Receive David Johnson] 

Meanwhile, Hopkins has also passed his physical with the Cardinals, so everything should be clear for the swap to become officially official. All along, both teams have expressed confidence that the trade would be completed, despite the hiccups presented by the ongoing pandemic. Outside of Houston headquarters, many speculated that Johnson’s past maladies would raise red flags and scuttle the deal. In Arizona, they had to do a careful check on Hopkins’ surgically-repaired wrist, though that injury has not slowed him as much over the years.

Johnson was once one of the NFL’s very best tailbacks, but he’s hasn’t looked like the same player as of late. In 2019, DJ missed games and ultimately lost his spot in the pecking order to Kenyan Drake. All together, he carried the ball just 94 times and averaged 3.7 yards per try. His last big year came in 2016, when he earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods as he ran for 1,239 yards. Then, in 2017, he saw most of his season wiped out.

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DeAndre Hopkins Passes Cardinals Physical

DeAndre Hopkins has passed his physical, James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. That takes care of one official piece of business in the pending Texans/Cardinals trade, though we’re still waiting for word on David Johnson‘s exam. 

Although much of the focus has been on Johnson’s physical, the Cardinals also had to do their due diligence on Hopkins. The stud wide receiver underwent wrist surgery following the 2014 season and had a pin and rod inserted afterwards. Of course, the injury hasn’t slowed him down much – Hopkins has played in all but two of his possible NFL games since 2013. In that span, he’s racked up 632 catches, 8,602 receiving yards, and 54 touchdowns. Now, he’ll try to keep up the good work with Kyler Murray under center in Arizona.

The Johnson physical should be the last step towards the deal becoming officially official. For what it’s worth, both sides have expressed confidence in the trade going down.

There’s no concern,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters recently. “Those (physicals) aren’t official as far as I know at this point, but we’ll get it done. There’s obviously — the medical field and personnel have much bigger fish to fry at this point. It’s been slower than it (normally) would be, but I have no doubts it’ll be done before the draft.”

Johnson, who has been hampered by knee problems, was healthy to close out the 2019 season. Still, the Texans will want to take an up-close look before signing off on the current terms of the deal. The swap sends Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to Arizona in exchange for Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-rounder.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.