It didn’t take until Black Friday for buyer’s (or seller’s) remorse to set in for some NFL teams.
Even with the coronavirus pandemic creating uncertainty about the future salary cap outlook, several teams still made bold moves this past offseason to reshape their rosters. For some, that meant casting off marquee players to move in a different direction. Others looked to bring on top talent, even if it meant paying a hefty premium in the form of lucrative contracts or early draft picks.
With 10 regular-season weeks already completed, we asked NFL reporters and columnists from around USA TODAY Sports: What’s the most regrettable move made by any team this offseason?
Worst move? That’s too easy to call, especially when seeing yet another replay of DeAndre Hopkins leaping above three Bills defenders to snag that “Hail Murray” prayer for the absolute Play of the Year. The Texans (2-7) gave away D-Hop for what? A song, a refurbished laptop, a six-pack of Bud Light, a blank cassette tape and a box of paper clips. OK, actually, Houston’s since-fired dictator, Bill O’Brien, shipped the All-Pro receiver and best jump-ball artist in the NFL for a running back trying to get his groove back, David Johnson, and a second-round pick while swapping fourth-round slots. I mean, you can find running backs all over the place. Look at what the Seahawks have done this season to manufacture a running game with a committee around Russell Wilson. So, unless you’re dealing for Dalvin Cook or Jim Brown, you just don’t dump your stud receiver because you’ve got a twisted sense of the addition-by-subtraction concept.
Kudos, Arizona. Cardinals GM Steve Keim should have his picture plastered in every post office in Harris County, Texas, for sure, as a wanted man. Billy The Kid, wearing a GM hat. What a heist. And poor Deshaun Watson. No knock against Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee (the occupants of the Texans’ receivers room), but every franchise quarterback should be so lucky to have a security blanket like Hopkins. Ask Kyler Murray, who was so brutally honest in sharing his thoughts while in the midst of heaving the miracle throw. “Hop down there somewhere.” Too bad for the Texans that he isn’t down in Houston. O’Brien lost his job as Houston has plummeted from division champ (10-6) to also-ran, and there’s no doubt that trading away Hopkins — the most egregious in a series of baffling moves — is the one to define his downfall. And just think: Hopkins became “expendable” in part because O’Brien had difficulty connecting with him and deemed him bad for the culture. They should have paid the man and worked through the other stuff. But at least O’Brien earned himself a place on the Cardinals’ holiday gift list.
It’s almost too obvious to state. But if you were under a rock, or off the grid, or on a plane back from stormy Cleveland like the Houston Texans were when DeAndre Hopkins wowed the world, perhaps you didn’t immediately see the spectacular and since endlessly memed Hail Mary grab Hopkins snatched as time expired in the Cardinals’ 32-30 win over Buffalo on Sunday. The 42-yard catch screamed its case for our last roundtable question exploring which team made the best offseason move. Viewing the catch against the backdrop of the Texans’ 10-7 loss to the Browns the same afternoon left Houston looking worse than the chances of one, let alone three, Buffalo defenders vs. Hopkins. Hopkins has netted 912 yards and four touchdowns while commanding constant attention from defenses that unlock further options for quarterback Kyler Murray and teammates. Houston still has a special quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but running back David Johnson — part of Houston’s spoils in exchange for Hopkins — hasn’t contributed enough, the Texans ranking second to last in the league in rushing yards and attempts. Houston’s top-10 passing attack hasn’t translated into scoring (25th in league) nor wins (Texans are 2-7). Might it have had that potential with Hopkins still in the mix? Ownership who fired coach Bill O’Brien after four games have a guess.
The stock answer has to be the Texans’ trade of WR DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, a move that looks increasingly worse by the week given the way Nuk is playing in the desert — Hail Murray! — and the modest-at-best compensation Houston got in return for its best player.
So assuming my colleagues feel similarly, I’d also offer a reminder that the Packers could have drafted WR Tee Higgins instead of QB Jordan Love … and how good would a Davante Adams-Higgins pairing look about now? Even if you love the Love move, it also wouldn’t have taken much maneuvering for Green Bay to make a slight move up in the second round for WR Chase Claypool (instead of settling for rarely used, one-dimensional RB A.J. Dillon) … and how good would an Adams-Claypool pairing look about now?
DeAndre Hopkins’ impact in Arizona speaks for itself. It feels like every single week, he comes up with some game-changing play to help elevate his team. Kyler Murray has taken huge strides forward in his development, but having a target like Hopkins certainly helps. I don’t know if we’d be talking about Murray as an MVP candidate if the Cardinals had not acquired Hopkins, who leads the NFL in receiving yards (912) and ranks second in catches (72). And Arizona certainly wouldn’t own a 6-4 record without Hopkins.
Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien still might have a job as head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans right now had he not traded away Hopkins instead of giving the receiver the long-term deal he wanted and deserved. Instead of further strengthening his team as it sought to build on its first playoff win under Deshaun Watson, O’Brien instead robbed his quarterback of his most reliable weapon. Houston opened the year 0-4, and O’Brien paid the price, getting fired.