How much was money a factor in the Texans’ trading WR DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals?

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Bill O’Brien told the world on April 16, 2020, over a month after the Houston Texans traded receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals that they just didn’t have the salary cap space to keep him.

It was the first time since the trade that anyone had heard from the organization about the shipping of the three-time All-Pro to the Cardinals for a 2020 second-round pick and former All-Pro running David Johnson.

“I would say, again, going back to what I talked about originally relative to contracts, injuries, the salary cap as a part of the game as we know it right now relative to the future of our team, next year, two years, three years down the road,” O’Brien said. “It was going to be very, very difficult to have an elite quarterback [Deshaun Watson], an elite defensive end [J.J. Watt], an elite left tackle [Laremy Tunsil] and other players and be able to do that. So, we felt like, again, after research and layers of research, that the best decision for our team was to move him to Arizona. That’s what we decided to do.”

2020 was the first year with O’Brien doubling up as both coach and general manager. After an 0-4 start, O’Brien was fired, and the subject of the Hopkins trade came up again. Was the Texans’ 0-4 start preventable if the club had decided to keep quarterback Deshaun Watson’s biggest target?

Chairman and CEO Cal McNair told Texans Radio play-by-play Marc Vandermeer on Oct. 7, 2020, that having to negotiate extensions for Watson and Tunsil in the offseason led to the departure of Hopkins.

“We have the franchise left tackle is a huge piece of the puzzle,” McNair said. “We have a franchise quarterback, which is what we’ve been looking for for years, and what every team is looking for and trying to get. And we have him, and we have a very firm belief that Deshaun is our guy. And, so, we had those two major contracts. If you look across the league, we are paying more than anyone, and it’s not really close, on our roster. And, so, when Hopkins wanted to redo his contract, it just wasn’t something that we could do.”

It is true that Hopkins wanted to rework his contract with the Texans, as evidenced by the extension he received from Arizona in September of 2020. However, paydays aren’t the only things that motivates Hopkins.

The Texans pitched the notion that it was difficult to pay for Watson, Watt, and Tunsil; there just wasn’t any salary cap space for Hopkins, who wanted more money. So, they just had to trade him.

Hopkins may have made that argument spurious.

In a tweet on May 21, Hopkins indicated via Doug Farrar of the Touchdown Wire that he would be willing to rework his contract with the Cardinals if that is what it took to acquire two-time All-Pro wideout Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons. The tweet has since been deleted, but Jess Root from the Cards Wire verifies that Hopkins’ reply with a GIF was in the affirmative that he would restructure his contract for Jones.

If Hopkins would be willing to restructure his contract so quarterback Kyler Murray could have Larry Fitzgerald, Jones, and Hopkins to target in the passing game, wouldn’t Hopkins also be willing to restructure his contract to allow Watson to have a premier pass protector, and maybe the defense to have a dominant edge rusher?

After the Texans traded Hopkins, they did finalize contract extensions with Tunsil, linebacker Zach Cunningham, and Watson. The club also restructured six players’ contracts to provide for salary cap space in the 2021 offseason.

The Texans enter a 2021 season with even more questions than they faced the year before, and one of the bad moves that continues to plague the franchise is the trading of Hopkins — whatever the motivations were.