DeAndre Hopkins

AFC Notes: Hopkins, Gordon, Bills, Lewis

Even with poor quarterback play for much of the year, Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins has solidified his place in the top tier of NFL receivers. At 25 years old, Hopkins eclipsed the 1,300 yard marker and has managed double-digit touchdowns in a season for the second time in his career. But perhaps one of the most impressive things about Hopkins is that he’s never missed a game. The former first-round pick has played in 79 straight contests, but that streak is expected to end on Sunday, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Wilson notes that Hopkins is currently dealing with a calf injury and was forced to miss practice on Thursday afternoon. It’s not a good sign when a player misses practice late in the week and that is no exception even for a player like Texans number one wideout. Hopkins produced perhaps his best season yet in 2017 because of the offensive situation he had to deal with. It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t end up going on Sunday because of his ability to make insane catches at any time, like the one he pulled off against the Steelers in Week 16.

Here are more stories we’re following from the AFC as Week 17 approaches:

  • While Melvin Gordon‘s Week 17 status was more uncertain at the beginning of the week, it appears as if the talented running back is “optimistic” he’ll be able to go on Sunday, a source tells to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The third-year back is dealing with an ankle sprain, but swelling is minimal, according to Rapoport. The Chargers would love to have Gordon available vs. the Raiders because their playoff hopes are still very much alive. The team does not have much depth behind their surefire number one back with Branden Oliver representing the only true backup on the depth chart. The Chargers have not signed an additional runner to the roster just yet, so it appears as if the team may think Gordon will be able to give to a go this weekend.
  • The Bills also face a must-win scenario in Week 17 in order to make the postseason. Two critical players in wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and cornerback E.J. Gaines have been dealing with injuries throughout the week, but both look like they are trending in the right direction with gameday fast approaching, according to the team’s website. “He looks like he’s ready to go,” said head coach Sean McDermott of Gaines. The rookie head coach was hedging his bets a bit more regarding his number one wideout, stating that, “He practiced today and did some good things, we’ll get a better feel tomorrow.” In order to reach the playoffs, Buffalo needs to beat Miami on the road and get a Ravens loss, or have the Titans and Chargers both lose on Sunday afternoon.
  • Bengals longtime head coach Marvin Lewis is currently working through heavy speculation that he will be relieved of his duties come Monday morning. However, the coach told reporters yesterday that he has not discussed his current contract situation with owner Mike Brown, per Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Terrell passes along that the two do speak everyday. So if they do talk about his future with the team, they are not making it public at this time. The Bengals have fought through what will be the Bengals second straight losing season, and without any playoff wins to show in 15 years with the franchise, it appears likely the two sides will part ways at some point this offseason. Though it should be stated that Lewis has been able to stick around for this long even with an 0-7 playoff record to his name, so I guess anything is possible.

Texans Extend DeAndre Hopkins

The Texans have agreed to a five-year contract extension with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). It’s a five-year, $81MM pact, Ian Rapoport and James Palmer of NFL.com report, while Schefter adds that it includes $49MM in guarantees (Twitter links). Both the total value of the contract and the guaranteed amount place Hopkins atop the NFL at his position, moving him above Atlanta’s Julio Jones ($71.25MM and $47MM, respectively).

DeAndre Hopkins (Vertical)

Thursday has been an extremely busy day for Texans general manager Rick Smith, who has agreed to extensions with Hopkins, safety Andre Hal, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and fullback Jay Prosch over the past few hours. The crown jewel of the quartet is undoubtedly Hopkins, a bona fide star who has provided exceptional production despite having to play with a slew of mediocre-at-best quarterbacks during his four-year career.

Most recently, Hopkins racked up 78 receptions for 954 yards and four touchdowns during a 16-start 2016. While most wideouts could only hope to post that type of output, it was actually disappointing coming from Hopkins, who didn’t benefit from now-Browns quarterback Brock Osweiler‘s presence in Houston. New starter Tom Savage earned Hopkins’ endorsement earlier this summer, and now the 25-year-old target will attempt to return to his pre-2016 form with Osweiler gone.

The 27th overall pick out of Clemson in 2013, Hopkins hasn’t missed a game and has already piled up 317 receptions, 4,487 yards (14.2 YPC) and 23 scores in his Houston tenure. During his career year, 2015, Hopkins wowed with 111 grabs, 1,521 yards and 11 TDs en route to second-team All-Pro honors and his sole Pro Bowl nod. Hopkins held out in search of a raise the ensuing summer, but his absence only lasted one day. There hadn’t been any acrimony between the sides between last July and Thursday, though. Hopkins made it clear on multiple occasions over the past year that he wanted to remain a Texan for the long haul, and both Smith and owner Bob McNair expressed similar sentiments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Texans, Bills, Chiefs, Jets

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the most important weapon in the Texans’ aerial attack, has caught passes from unheralded veteran Tom Savage and first-round rookie Deshaun Watson this summer. Asked Friday which of the two should start, Hopkins endorsed Savage (via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). “If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I’ve played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years,” Hopkins said. “So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.” The 27-year-old Savage “does everything well,” according to Hopkins, who went on to discuss his own status with the Texans. Hopkins is in a contract year, but he insisted that he has no desire to test free agency after the season. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to have me, but the Houston Texans is my home and the team that I want to play for forever,” he declared.

More from the AFC:

  • Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn went for a second opinion on his injured left ankle and may have to undergo surgery, head coach Sean McDermott suggested Friday to reporters, including Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Glenn has been dealing with ankle issues since last year, when he missed five games. The five-year veteran entered 2016 having posted three straight 16-start campaigns. Losing Glenn for an extended period of time would deprive the Bills of arguably their best offensive lineman and likely lead to second-round rookie Dion Dawkins taking the reins at left tackle. It would also further eat into Buffalo’s tackle depth – the team cut now-Lion Cyrus Kouandjio in the spring, and Seantrel Henderson will miss the first five games of the season because of a suspension. The Bills’ only other bookend with experience is right tackle Jordan Mills, who started 16 games a year ago but ranked an underwhelming 56th in performance out of Pro Football Focus’ 76 qualified OTs.
  • The Chiefs worked out rookie cornerback John Green on Friday, according to a league source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Green, undrafted from Connecticut, spent time with the Titans in the spring.
  • Rookie running back Shaquille Cooper worked out for the Jets on Friday, tweets Wilson. Cooper, also an undrafted free agent, played his college football at Division II Fort Hays State University.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Hopkins, Big Ben, Colts, Chiefs

Both the Texans and No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would like to reach a long-term deal this summer, and odds are that it will happen, suggests John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hopkins, due to make $7.9MM as a fifth-year option player this season, became all the more important to the Texans’ cause for 2017 after No. 2 receiver Will Fuller suffered a broken collarbone Wednesday. Fuller’s multi-month absence could mean even more opportunities for Hopkins, who easily led the Texans in both targets and receptions in each of the previous two seasons. Despite having to catch passes from middling or worse quarterbacks throughout his career, Hopkins has a history of terrific production. Thanks to his output thus far, the 25-year-old looks poised to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid wideouts in the coming weeks.

More from the AFC:

  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is keeping all options on the table beyond 2017, including retirement and playing a few more years. “I hope (to play multiple future seasons), but I’m only going to focus on this year,” Roethlisberger revealed Wednesday (via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review). Whether the 35-year-old sticks around will depend somewhat on how much of a beating his offensive line allows him to take this season. “If those guys up front are playing as well as they have been playing, getting sacked (a career-low) 17 times in (2016) — it might keep me around a little longer,” he said.
  • With 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett and free agent signing Kamar Aiken, the Colts have a pair of notable receivers behind starters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. However, the unheralded Chester Rogers has emerged as Indy’s likely No. 3 wideout, according to Kevin Bowen of the team’s website. As an undrafted rookie last year, Rogers accrued 34 targets and 19 catches in 14 games (two starts), and he averaged 14.4 yards per catch. Both Dorsett and Aiken bettered Rogers’ counting stats in 2016, but the second-year man has nonetheless turned into a “virtual 12th starter for the Colts,” writes Bowen.
  • Defensive tackle Roy Miller‘s contract with the Chiefs is a one-year, $1.4MM pact that could be worth up to $2.5MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The deal includes $300K in guarantees.

Duane Brown Not Expected To Miss Games; Latest On DeAndre Hopkins

Texans left tackle Duane Brown stayed away from the team during voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp to express his displeasure over his current contract. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports, unsurprisingly, that Brown is expected to miss the start of training camp as well.

Duane Brown (vertical)

Brown is subject to fines of $40K for each day of camp that he holds out, though Wilson concedes that the 31-year-old has some leverage considering that Houston, which has championship aspirations this season but virtually no experience at the quarterback position, does not have an adequate replacement at left tackle. Nonetheless, there have been no negotiations between player and team, as Brown still has two years remaining on his current contract and the Texans do not renegotiate deals with two or more years remaining (Houston made exceptions to that rule for franchise icons Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt, but as good as Brown has been, he is not at that level).

Wilson adds, however, that Brown is not expected to miss any regular season games, so if the team does not give in, it sounds as if Brown will ultimately report. He ranks 11th among left tackles in cash compensation this year, as the six-year, $53.4MM deal he signed with Houston a few years ago has been surpassed by larger deals. He stands to earn $9.65MM in 2017.

In other Texans news, Wilson writes that the team and star wideout DeAndre Hopkins remain “highly motivated” to come to terms on a long-term deal, although negotiations have yet to pick up steam. However, there has been no “acrimony” on either side, and Hopkins is expected to report to camp on time, in contrast to his one-day holdout last year. Hopkins is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due to earn $7.9MM in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Luck, Hopkins, Bell, Freeman

As he enters his fifth-year option season, DeAndre Hopkins has nothing but great things to say about the Texans, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes.

Those talks are between the Texans and my agent, but this city has embraced me just like my hometown in South Carolina has,” said Hopkins, who’s represented by Creative Artists Agency. “I love being here. I love playing for this team, great organization. Bob McNair and Cal McNair, they do a great job at having an organization that speaks for itself. I thank those guys all the time for picking me 27th when nobody knew who DeAndre Hopkins was.”

Hopkins and Houston are expected to hammer out a new deal this offseason. For now, he’s set to play out the year at a $7.915MM figure.

Let’s check out some other notes from around the league…

  • Colts quarterback Andrew Luck underwent offseason shoulder surgery, and ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that he may not be ready for training camp in July. “To be honest, I have not thought about it,” Luck told Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “If I’m ready for it, then great. If I’m not, then that’s the way it is. I’m certainly hopeful for it. In my mind all I can do — and I truly feel this way — with this rehab, with my shoulder, I can’t look five months down the road, three months down the road, a week down the road. To me it’s about the next rehab session, the next day. That’s where my focus is and that’s where I think it needs to be to truly get back to 100 percent.” If Luck was forced to miss any time, Scott Tolzien would presumably take starters reps.
  • Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tender with the organization, and ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio wonders what it’d take to sign the Pro Bowler to an extension. Using the franchise tag as a guide, the writer guesses that Bell would request at least a two-year contract worth $26.6MM, with team options accounting for the subsequent years. Of course, considering the player’s injury and suspension history, Florio guesses that the Steelers would request some type of per-game bonuses. He also assumes that Bell would be seeking a lucrative roster bonus in an attempt to immediately pocket as much as money as possible.
  • Brandon McManus hasn’t signed his restricted free agent tender contract with the Broncos, but Mike Klis of 9News in Denver tweets that the veteran kicker is not “protesting,” noting that the 25-year-old is participating in minicamp. McManus has appeared in 47 games with the Broncos over the past three seasons, converting 82.9-percent of his field goal attempts.
  • Former NFL quarterback Josh Freeman worked out with the Montreal Alouettes today, reports Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette (via Twitter). The former first-rounder’s last NFL appearance came in 2015, when he threw for 149 yards and one touchdown in a start for the Colts. Between 2010 and 2012, Freeman started 47 games for the Buccaneers.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Texans, Bills, Pats, Browns

The Texans hope to extend wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and accomplishing that will likely require the club to give him a five-year deal worth upward of $70MM, including $40MM-plus in guarantees, observes CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). That type of pact would put Hopkins in the same company as fellow pass-catching stars such as Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Dallas’ Dez Bryant and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. While an extension for Hopkins is expected, it’s not imminent, per Wilson. As of now, Hopkins is slated to make $7.915MM in 2017, his fifth-year option season.

More from the AFC:

  • The Bills need to match the Patriots’ offer sheet to restricted free agent Mike Gillislee and stop the flow of talent to New England, opines Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. The Pats signed Gillislee to a two-year, $6.4MM contract, including $4MM in 2017, after adding ex-Bills receiver and then-RFA Chris Hogan on a front-loaded deal last offseason. That worked out well for New England and poorly for Buffalo in 2016. Unlike the Hogan situation, the Bills would receive compensation for Gillislee’s departure – a fifth-round pick – but they’d lose another important member of their offense to an AFC East rival. The Bills could have avoided this situation by tendering Gillislee at a second-round level, which only would have cost them about $1MM extra, Rodak notes. In that scenario, Gillislee would have been on the Bills’ books this year at a reasonable $2.7MM.
  • Joe Haden‘s willingness to play through injuries last season may have kept him in a Browns uniform, the cornerback explained to Scott Patsko of cleveland.com on Tuesday. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told Haden he would have advised the team to move on from him had he not gutted out his groin issues. “When I first got here, I went to his office and we talked for a while,” said Haden. “He told me, ‘If you didn’t play through your injury, I would tell them to get you out of here.'” Haden last year suited up for 13 games, eight more than he appeared in during an injury-marred 2015. The two-time Pro Bowler was the subject of trade rumors during the fall, but the Browns elected to keep him.
  • A couple of potential early round draft picks, Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen and Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, visited the Patriots on Tuesday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Doug Kyed of NESN (Twitter links). One could end up with the Patriots with their first selection, which is scheduled for No. 72 overall. Of course, the Pats are likely to acquire a much earlier pick if they trade cornerback Malcolm Butler.

Extra Points: Patriots, Ryan, Browns, 49ers

The Patriots ultimately traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in late October for a third-round pick, but the Pats initially had their sights set much higher. We learned back in December that New England tried to deal Collins to New Orleans for receiver Brandin Cooks, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com wrote today that the Patriots also tried to trade Collins to the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. Unsurprisingly, Houston was unwilling to entertain that offer, but New England also attempted to pry Johnathan Joseph from the Texans in exchange for Collins. Houston was more intrigued by that proposal but valued Joseph too highly to pull the trigger.

Now let’s take a look at a few more links from around the league:

  • On the subject of seminal trades, the Ravens were ready to part with their entire 2008 draft class in order to trade up to take Matt Ryan at No. 2 that year, Rapoport reports. The Ravens held the No. 8 pick and offered their entire ’08 picks stockpile to the Rams, who held the No. 2 choice. St. Louis also wanted Baltimore’s second-round pick in 2009, which ended up being Paul Kruger, to clinch that deal, per Rapoport. The Rams ended up taking Chris Long at No. 2, with the Ravens trading down to No. 18 and selecting Joe Flacco. In the ’08 draft, Baltimore acquired Ray Rice in the second round but largely whiffed on its other picks. However, the Ravens ended up making 10 selections. The Falcons selected Ryan at No. 3 overall.
  • More trades: we learned in recent weeks that the team is willing to deal backup Jimmy Garoppolo and that the 49ers, Browns, and Bears could be among the teams with interest. In her latest mailbag, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes the Browns would be willing to part with their No. 12 overall selection as part of a Garoppolo deal if that’s what it takes to land the young signal-caller.
  • John Lynch isn’t completely devoid of scouting experience, with Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com noting the former Buccaneers and Broncos safety joining recently hired 49ers exec Adam Peters in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, eventually accompanying Denver’s contingent to the 2013 Combine. John Elway also put Lynch on some special assignments in recent offseasons, per Maiocco, dispatching the eventual Hall of Fame finalist to evaluate draft-eligible safeties.
  • In an expansive breakdown of today’s Super Bowl teams’ financial distribution, CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry writes the Patriots using the franchise tag on Martellus Bennett isn’t out of the question due to Rob Gronkowski‘s inability to stay healthy. Corry projects the tight end tag number to come in at $9.894MM. The Patriots have Dont’a Hightower as their apparent top tag candidate, but the linebacker’s tag is slated to be $14.754MM, which could lead the Patriots to proceed with caution despite having already traded Collins and Chandler Jones.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report

Texans Notes: Novak, Hopkins, Bouye

Nick Novak had a career-year in 2016, and some members of the Texans organization believe he played a major role in the team clinching a playoff birth.

The 35-year-old played last season on a one-year, $965K contract, and the impending free agent would like to return to Houston for the 2017 campaign.

“I want to be back,” Novak told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done and I’m excited to be back with the same guys. I really feel like I can help the Texans get to where they want to go. I leave it up to my agent and the personnel department to get a deal done.

“I don’t know what kind of progress is being made, but it’s all positive. I’ve heard some really good things from [general manager] Rick Smith, [coach] Bill O’Brien, [special teams coordinator] Larry Izzo. We’ll see what happens.”

Let’s check out some more notes coming out of Houston…

  • The Texans passing offense was among the worst in the league this past season, and Smith understands that the team needs more out of the quarterback position if they want to contend. “We’ve got to get better production from the quarterback position,” Smith told Wilson. “We’ve got to get better production from all across our football team. We’ve got to do a good job of analyzing our football team, and that’s what we’re doing now, trying to figure out where we’re strong, where we’re weak and how we can go about improving.” Of course, Smith did note that he still believes in starter Brock Osweiler, who is owed $16MM next season. Reports from earlier this week indicated that the organization would likely take a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
  • Despite having one of the worse seasons of his career, wideout DeAndre Hopkins is still to eager to stick around Houston. “I love this organization and what this team is doing,” Hopkins told Wilson. “It seems like we’re getting better and better every year, so why not?” We learned earlier this week that the Texans would like to extend Hopkins, who finished last season with 78 receptions for 954 yards and four touchdowns.
  • A.J. Bouye is in line for a well-deserved payday, writes Wilson. Instead of taking a less-lucrative, multi-year offer last offseason, the cornerback decided to opt for a one-year, $1.6MM contract with the Texans. The 25-year-old clearly made the right decision, as he’s projected to be the best free agent defensive back. Wilson expects that the Texans will have around $25MM in cap space, and he projects Bouye to receive an offer that pays around $13MM annually.

Texans Seeking Hopkins, Bouye Extensions

No surprise here, but the Texans are hoping to hammer out an extension with DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, owner Bob McNair told reporters on Wednesday (link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). Last year, Hopkins staged a brief holdout at the start of training camp over his contractual situation. McNair also says he wants to strike a long-term deal with pending free agent cornerback A.J. BouyeDeAndre Hopkins

[RELATED: Mutual Interest Between Texans, A.J. Bouye]

Those are good young players,” McNair said of Hopkins and Bouye. “Those are the kind of players that we want to keep around here. So, yeah, certainly we’re going to work on that and see if we can get both of them taken care of. It’s certainly our intention.”

Hopkins is scheduled to earn $7.915MM as he enters his fifth-year option year. As one of the league’s most talented wide receivers, he’d be in line for a massive payday if he were ever allowed to reach the open market. The Texans still have the franchise tag at their disposal to keep him through 2018 (or even ’19 with a second tag), but they could have a much happier Hopkins if they can agree to a long-term pact.

Last year, Hopkins had only 78 catches for 954 yards and four touchdowns, but that dip in production can be traced directly to the team’s quarterback woes. In the year prior, he had a career-high 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl selection.

Currently, A.J. Green leads all wide receivers with a $15MM/year average annual value on his deal. In terms of guaranteed money per year, however, the list is led by Julio Jones ($7.1MM) and Demaryius Thomas ($7MM). Hopkins’ reps will have all of these numbers in mind as they discuss a new deal, particularly given the expected salary cap increases over time.

Bouye went from an unknown to an elite cornerback in a flash. He was nothing but stellar this year but without any real history before that, he’ll make for a very interesting contractual case. It sounds like the Texans will work to lock up the former UDFA before the start of free agency, but his reps may be eyeing a bigger deal than what Houston will offer during the exclusive period. On the most recent edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, Bouye was ranked seventh.

It’s hard to come up with a comp for Bouye since he is such a unique case, but I expect him to best teammate Kareem Jackson‘s four-year, $34MM deal ($20MM in total guarantees) signed in 2015. At the time, Jackson only had two truly strong seasons under his belt (2012 and 2014) with three so-so campaigns. Jackson’s first-round pedigree probably helped matters, but Bouye is more than a full year younger than Jackson at the time of his negotiations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.