Houston Texans owner Cal McNair discussed the deal in a radio interview on Wednesday. He was on board with the trade. And he remains so today.
O’Brien took the blame for Hopkins deal
O’Brien took the bulk of the criticism for the widely-panned deal that saw the Texans trade their four-time Pro Bowl receiver to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick and injury-plagued running back with a big contract in David Johnson.
The trade happened under O’Brien’s watch as general manager.
Since the trade, the Texans have gotten off to an 0-4 start behind the NFL’s 27th-ranked offense. In Arizona, Hopkins is on pace for an NFL-record 156 catches and a career-high 1,588 yards. O’Brien was fired on Monday from his job as head coach and general manager.
McNair defends Hopkins trade after O’Brien ouster
But McNair told Sports Radio 610 on Wednesday that the decision to trade Hopkins was purely financial and that the team had prioritized spending on quarterback Deshaun Watson and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
“We would’ve loved to have Hopkins on our team, but when you have a franchise left tackle, which we re-did his contract, which by the way, he’s playing at a top-five level right now,” McNair told Sports Radio 610. ... And we have a very firm belief that Deshaun is our guy. So we had those two major contracts. As you look across the league, we are paying more than anyone, and it’s not really very close on our roster.
“So when Hopkins wanted to re-do his contract, it just wasn’t something we could do. We did trade him. We moved him. We moved him to a team that had the salary cap room to extend.”
Did Tunsil trade back Texans into corner?
To be clear, the Texans traded Hopkins before they signed Tunsil to a record contract extension for an offensive lineman after they jettisoned Hopkins.
The Texans paid big up front on the trade market to obtain Tunsil, giving up two first-round draft picks in a package deal in 2019. By not securing an extension with Tunsil before giving up such a haul, the Texans ensured that Tunsil had all the leverage in their negotiations.
And he used it, securing $22 million a year without the aid of an agent.
So it appears that once the Texans gave up two first-round picks to obtain Tunsil, Hopkins’ fate in Houston was secure. The Texans made Tunsil a salary cap priority over Hopkins, whether or not it was the correct football decision.
McNair defended the decision and his “top-five level” tackle in his radio interview Sunday. But the Texans’ sputtering output suggests that something’s wrong with how this offense is built.
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