DeAndre Hopkins

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Williams

While the Cowboys have imported two of the 2019 Panthers’ three defensive line starters — in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe — they are not looking to move on from Tyrone Crawford. The Cowboys have asked Crawford to yo-yo between defensive end and tackle in his career, and with the two high-profile veterans coming to Dallas, it is reasonable to wonder about their longtime lineman’s role. But as of now, it should be expected Crawford will be Dallas’ starting D-end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News notes. Despite Crawford only playing in four games last season, the Cowboys are also not expected to ask the 30-year-old lineman to take a pay cut from the $8MM salary he is due in 2020, Moore adds. Crawford, whose contract is up after 2020, would be taking the place of Robert Quinn opposite Lawrence. Quinn signed a mega-deal with the Bears.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles entered the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes, but the Cardinals’ offer of David Johnson and a second-round pick surprisingly won out. Howie Roseman said Thursday the deal the Texans offered him was different than what the Cardinals ended up agreeing to, per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). It is not known what the Eagles offered, but this marks the most recent instance of them entering the pursuit of a high-profile AFC South player and not winning out. Roseman bowed out of the Jalen Ramsey sweepstakes last year. The lofty Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson cap numbers would have made a Hopkins extension interesting for Philly to navigate.
  • Despite the Cowboys signing both McCoy and Poe to help on their interior defensive line, they are not likely to look outside the organization to help on their interior O-line. Travis Frederick‘s successor will probably be an in-house move, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Considering the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the 2019 third round and re-signed Joe Looney — their 2018 replacement for Frederick — it should not surprise they will look internally at center. The Cowboys placed a second-round grade on McGovern last year, and even though he missed all of last season, the Penn State product should have a good shot at succeeding Frederick.
  • Although nearly half the league used a franchise or a transition tag this year, the GiantsLeonard Williams tag may have been the most interesting decision. New York’s Williams tag will cost at least $16.1MM (the defensive tackle price) and could run as much as $17.8MM (for defensive ends), but Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes the Giants are not likely to sign the former Jets first-rounder to a deal that averages $16MM per year. If that is the case, Williams should be expected to play 2020 on the tag.
  • The Cowboys gave Kai Forbath a one-year, $1.18MM deal, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). The veteran kicker, who succeeded Brett Maher last year, will receive a $137K signing bonus.
  • The Giants‘ deal for ex-Patriots special-teamer Nate Ebner is a one-year, $2MM pact, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Ebner will receive a $950K roster bonus and a $1.05MM base salary.

WR Notes: Hopkins, Diggs, Agholor, Ravens

Before the Texans dealt DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, the Patriots pursued the All-Pro wideout. So did the Eagles, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com said during an interview with Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter link). The Eagles passed on going deep into talks, however, which makes sense given their commitments to Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. Hopkins also wants a new deal in the $20MM-per-year range, in which Amari Cooper (zero All-Pro honors). The Eagles’ view of the much-hyped 2020 wide receiver class affected a potential Hopkins pursuit, Tim McManus of ESPN.com adds.

This impacted the Texans’ trade, with Albert Breer of SI.com adding that Hopkins wanted a raise instead of an extension. He is under contract through 2022 — on a $16.2MM-per-year deal that has dropped from first to eighth among wide receivers. Hopkins had also become a bit of a locker room issue in Houston, per Breer, who adds that the Texans may have been reluctant to reward the 27-year-old star because of the message it would have sent. This process came as a bit of a surprise to the Cardinals, whom Breer notes did not engage in Hopkins discussions with the Texans at the Combine.

Here is the latest from the wideout front, moving first to last week’s other big trade:

  • Months before the Bills pulled the trigger on a Stefon Diggs trade, they were interested in doing so before last year’s deadline. The Bills called the Vikings on several occasions about Diggs’ availability last year, Breer reports, but Minnesota insisted on keeping him. The Bills reached out about an hour after an ominous Diggs tweet that emerged shortly after the Hopkins trade, Breer adds. Last year, the Vikings wanted either two first-rounders or first- and second-round picks for Diggs, but Breer notes they loosened their asking price when the Bills called last week. Although the Vikings mentioned the 2013 Percy Harvin trade — in which the Seahawks dealt first-, third- and seventh-rounders for the then-standout wideout — as a starting point, they ended up accepting a first-rounder and no Day 2 picks for Diggs.
  • The Raiders are likely to use Nelson Agholor as their punt returner, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). While Agholor has only returned three punts in five NFL seasons, he was an accomplished return man at USC. He totaled four punt-return touchdowns between his sophomore and junior years with the Trojans. The Raiders traded for Trevor Davis to return punts last year but waived him later in 2019.
  • Chris Moore‘s Ravens contract expired last week, but the team remains interested in keeping him. The Ravens have engaged in talks about re-signing the free agent wide receiver, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets. Although Moore is not a big factor in Baltimore’s passing game, he is valued as a special-teamer. A new deal would likely cost close to the league minimum.

DeAndre Hopkins Requested $18MM-$20MM/Year Extension From Texans

Unsurprisingly, it sounds like financials were the motivation for the DeAndre Hopkins trade.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweets that Hopkins’ camp approached the Texans and requested an extension that would have paid the receiver around $18MM to $20MM per season. Hopkins’ reps also indicated that the wideout would hold out if he wasn’t given a new deal.

We heard similar rumblings earlier this week, with the Texans recognizing that they would have had to renegotiate Hopkins’ contract at some point. Meanwhile, the front office was more focused on securing new deals for Deshaun Watson and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil,

Ultimately, the Texans traded Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to Arizona for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-rounder and a 2021 fourth-rounder.

Hopkins signed a five-year, $81MM extension in 2017, and he’s set to make just $12.5MM in 2020. The Cardinals were presumably aware of these financial concerns when making the trade, so it wouldn’t be shocking if Hopkins has a new deal before the start of the regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Tried To Trade For DeAndre Hopkins

Before the Cardinals swung their blockbuster deal for DeAndre Hopkins, the Patriots tried their hand with the Texans, Albert Breer of The MMQB (Twitter video link) hears. The Patriots were in on talks for the wide receiver over the past couple of weeks, but ultimately did not get a deal done.

During the talks, the Patriots might have been operating with the assumption that they’d be reunited with Tom Brady. Of course, that’s no longer the case – Brady announced on Tuesday morning that he’s leaving New England. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are of course no strangers to bringing in big name receivers, like when they traded for Randy Moss way back in 2007 or when they briefly signed Antonio Brown last season.

It’s possible that they made a push for Hopkins as part of a broader effort to entice Brady to stay. Despite the dominance of their defense New England’s offense struggled for much of last season, and the Pats were frequently criticized for not giving Brady enough weapons after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski.

It’s unclear what the Patriots were offering, although it’s possible that the Texans weren’t inclined to send him to a conference rival and would’ve preferred to send him to the NFC even if the compensation was similar or better. Texans coach/GM Bill O’Brien has been on the receiving end of a lot of flak for the startlingly small package he got from Arizona, but at least he was on the phone with multiple teams.

As for New England, Breer adds that they’re still looking at tight ends and receivers, so don’t expect them to give up on upgrading the offense. Obviously finding a new quarterback is now the top priority, but whoever it is will need an upgraded receiving corp. Julian Edelman, who has been Brady’s reliable safety blanket over the years, will turn 34 in May.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On DeAndre Hopkins

Earlier today, the Texans stunned the football world by trading star DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. We’ll run down the latest on the trade here:

  • The Texans recognized that they would have to renegotiate Hopkins’ contract at some point if they wanted to keep him, but they’re prioritizing new deals for Deshaun Watson and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, Yahoo’s Charles Robinson tweets. Hopkins had three years remaining on his team-friendly contract, so the Texans felt that a fresh deal was premature. Meanwhile, they see opportunities to replenish at wide receiver via the draft, as well as some options for trades. All in all, the Texans viewed the Hopkins trade as the first step towards a larger plan that will cover them on both sides of the ball.
  • Another contributing factor: Ongoing friction between Hopkins and head coach Bill O’Brien, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

Texans To Trade DeAndre Hopkins To Cardinals

Minutes after their David Johnson trade surfaced, the Texans and Cardinals will top that deal. The Texans have agreed to send All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Hopkins will be included in the Johnson trade, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The seven-year veteran now becomes the centerpiece of said trade. Not only are the Texans taking all of Johnson’s contract, but it appears they are dealing Hopkins without getting a first-round pick back.

Interestingly, this deal thus far does not include any first-round picks. The Texans will trade Hopkins and a fourth-round pick for Johnson, a 2020 second-rounder and a 2021 fourth-rounder, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter).

This marks one of the biggest skill-position trades in recent memory, and the Cardinals will now have a Hopkins-Larry FitzgeraldChristian Kirk receiver trio. A rumor surfaced earlier Monday about Hopkins being available, and SI.com’s Albert Breer adds (on Twitter) that the dominant receiver came up in trade rumors in August and October. Bill O’Brien took over personnel duties last May.

Hopkins, who will turn 28 this summer, has been a first-team All-Pro in each of the past three seasons. He’s made four of the past five Pro Bowls. One of the top contested-catch players in modern NFL history, the former first-round pick will now be tasked with helping the Kyler Murray-centered Arizona offense take steps forward. Cardinals GM Steve Keim interestingly got off the Johnson contract and acquired Hopkins without having to give up a first-round pick. The Cardinals hold this year’s No. 8 overall pick. The second-rounder they are giving up is the No. 40 overall selection.

Hopkins signed a five-year, $81MM extension in 2017. Three seasons remain on that deal. While it is certainly possible the Cardinals will redo his contract, as the Raiders did upon acquiring Antonio Brown last March, Hopkins is set to make just $12.5MM in 2020 base salary.

This marks an unusual move for the Texans, who have used Hopkins as their offensive centerpiece since Andre Johnson vacated that role several years ago. Hopkins has five 1,100-yard seasons since 2014, the last year he and Johnson were on the same team, and has 54 career touchdowns. His 504 receptions, 6,590 yards and 46 TDs each rank second in the league over the past five years (h/t Field Yates of ESPN.com). Both Kenny Stills and Will Fuller are under contract for 2020, but neither is signed beyond next season.

The Texans have been active traders since O’Brien took over as de facto GM (and now actual GM). They dealt two first-round picks and a second for Laremy Tunsil and unloaded third-rounders for Duke Johnson and Gareon Conley. This Hopkins-Johnson deal will give the Texans a second-rounder back, but the team obviously is not as strong offensively after making the move.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Mulling DeAndre Hopkins Trade?

The Texans could consider trading DeAndre Hopkins, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. Two teams tell King that it’s a situation to watch, despite Hopkins’ accomplishments and his contract. 

Hopkins is under contract for another three years with $40MM owed – a team-friendly deal, considering his ability. However, the Texans are desperate for draft capital. They do not have a top-50 choice this year or next year and the Texans have some gaping holes to fill on the offensive line and in the secondary. And, looking ahead, they need an injection of younger players in the front seven with stars J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the wrong side of 30.

The Texans resisted calls on Hopkins before last year’s deadline and he went on to finish the year with 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. That performance earned him his third straight Pro Bowl nomination and his third straight year as a First-Team All-Pro. Still, the Texans felt that he was not as explosive last year and this could be an opportune time to move him as he closes in on his 28th birthday.

Speculatively, King wonders if the Patriots, 49ers, Giants, and Dolphins would be logical fits for a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Hopkins, Slay, Hooper

The trade deadline is two days away, so there are plenty of rumors to pass along. Of course, many of those rumors center around this year’s non-contenders, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says that two such teams — the Redskins and Bengals — continue to rebuff inquiries concerning veterans who should be available. Rival GMs have grown increasingly frustrated with Washington and Cincinnati, and La Canfora says opposing clubs have become resigned to the fact that they are not going to be able to swing a deal with those obstinate franchises. That means that a number of big names — Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, A.J. Green, and Carlos Dunlap, to name a few — are looking more and more likely to stay put.

Now for more trade rumors from around the league, starting with another nugget out of Cincinnati:

  • Michael Lombardi of The Athletic agrees that the Bengals are likely to stand pat at the deadline for the most part, but he does believe the club will move tight end Tyler Eifert.
  • Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is decidedly not on the trading block, but teams have still called Houston to ask about the star wideout, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets. That obviously sounds like clubs doing their due diligence more than anything else, and Glazer acknowledges that it would take an awful lot for the Texans to move Hopkins.
  • The Lions have received calls on CB Darius Slay, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It would take a big offer to pry Slay from Detroit, but in the wake of Slay’s comments earlier this week, maybe the Lions will be more inclined to move him.
  • RB-needy teams have called the Seahawks to inquire on Rashaad Penny, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reports (video link). Penny is not on the block, per se, but the 2018 first-rounder is drawing interest. In the same video, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says Chargers RB Melvin Gordon could also be on the move.
  • Schefter reports that the 49ers have received calls on backup QB C.J. Beathard, whom Schefter suggests could be on the move.
  • The Falcons have fielded calls on DT Tyeler Davison, per Lombardi, but Atlanta has told other teams Davison will not be moved. The team is also going to hang on to TE Austin Hooper, as Schefter tweets.
  • The Giants are likely to cut Nate Solder after the season, so Lombardi believes Big Blue should go ahead and trade him now (though HC Pat Shurmur, whose job could be in jeopardy, would likely resist such a move). The Browns continue to be in the market for OT help, as Schefter writes, and the Patriots may also be interested in a reunion with Solder. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says Solder was not a viable option for Cleveland as of the middle of last week, but that could change in the next couple of days.
  • Janoris Jenkins is another member of the Giants who could be on the move, and while he is likely open to joining a contender, he just wants New York to be transparent with their plans for him, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. That sentiment was also expressed by former Giants like Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr., who both felt as though Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman were not straightforward with them. Dunleavy names the Chiefs as a potential landing spot for Jenkins.
  • Interest remains heavy on Broncos vets Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe, as La Canfora writes. Denver is open to moving Harris and Wolfe, and rival GMs expect the Broncos to make those trades happen.

Injury Notes: Brown, Luck, Gore, Watt, Jones, Lawrence

Here’s the latest on all the injuries to big names as training camps get underway across the league:

  • There was a brief uproar earlier when it was mysteriously announced that Antonio Brown would start camp on the Raiders’ non-football injury list. However, the as of now undisclosed issue that caused Brown to be placed on the NFI was described to Field Yates of ESPN as “very minor” (Twitter link). Further, Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune tweets that the Raiders have known of the injury for two weeks, and that Brown will probably only miss a week of camp time. Despite the initial panic, it doesn’t sound like this is anything you need to monitor going forward.
  • Andrew Luck was sidelined by a calf injury during the Colts’ offseason program, which sparked some concerns about his Achilles. However, Luck told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network today “my Achilles is not at extra risk of anything. It’s fine” (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Pelissero notes Luck participated in team drills today, and that his limited workload has only been precautionary.
  • Speaking of the NFI, Bills GM Brandon Beane said that running back Frank Gore has been removed from it, per longtime Bills beat reporter Joe Buscaglia (Twitter link). Gore had been dealing with a minor injury, but has passed his physical and is cleared to practice. Gore will be competing for carries in a crowded Buffalo backfield that also features LeSean McCoy and rookie Devin Singletary.
  • J.J. Watt started camp on the Texans’ PUP list, but he’s now been removed and cleared to practice, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Watt was limited to just eight combined games in 2016 and 2017 due to injuries, but he played a full 16-game slate last year. Watt wasn’t the only Texan to get cleared, as James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that DeAndre Hopkins was also cleared and activated from PUP.
  • Byron Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Noah Brown will start camp on the PUP list for the Cowboys, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Fortunately, Dallas is expecting all of them to be ready for the start of the season. Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery, Jones had surgery on his hip, and Crawford is also dealing with a hip injury. Last we heard, there had been no progress in extension talks between the team and Jones.

J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins To Begin Texans Camp On PUP List

Both J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins will start Texans training camp a bit late. Each Houston All-Pro will begin camp on the active/PUP list, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Watt underwent a minor knee surgery this offseason, but that procedure came in January. The future Hall of Fame defensive end has otherwise enjoyed his healthiest offseason in years, it coming after two rehab-heavy years following severe injuries.

Hopkins dealt with significant shoulder pain last season, telling the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain he tore ligaments “completely off the bone.” Still, neither Watt nor Hopkins missed a game last season. Hopkins was expected to be ready for camp, and given how well he played through injury last season, it is likely he is not in jeopardy of missing time to start this year.

Neither standout’s stay on the PUP list is expected to last long, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (on Twitter).

Players placed on teams’ active/PUP lists can return at any point during training camp. A player placed on the reserve/PUP list after 53-man rosters are set must sit out at least the first six weeks of a season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.