Sean Pendergast

Four Thoughts on DeAndre Hopkins' Release From Arizona Cardinals

The book closes on the 2020 DeAndre Hopkins trade with his release from the Arizona Cardinals.
The book closes on the 2020 DeAndre Hopkins trade with his release from the Arizona Cardinals. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Back in March of 2020, just as the world was shutting itself down at the outset of the COVID pandemic, Bill O'Brien made a decision that would begin the tailspin that ultimately ended his career with the Houston Texans — he traded All Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in one of the most lopsided deals in the history of the league.

The trade brought the Texans a broken, expensive running back in David Johnson, and a second round pick that O'Brien predictably wasted. The deal was a landslide for the Cardinals the day it was made, and ultimately it ended up just that, although with the news over the weekend that the Cardinals released Hopkins after three seasons, it wasn't quite the trouncing that Cardinal fans had hoped for in 2020.

Indeed, on Friday the news came out that the Cardinals were moving on from Hopkins. They had reportedly been trying to trade him, but couldn't arrive at a deal with any suitors, so they moved on, perhaps not wanting to deal with an unhappy Hopkins around a clearly rebuilding roster. also, it probably didn't help that Hopkins was openly listing teams he'd rather play for on podcast appearances.

So now the book is closed on O'Brien's Hopkins deal, and for the first time in his career, Hopkins is a free agent who can sign anywhere he pleases. Here are a few thoughts in looking back at the trade, and where things go from here:

So what's the final score on the Hopkins trade?
Well, let's look at both sides. First, the Texans. This was a trade that was lopsided the day it was made, considering the Vikings got a first round pick for a lesser receiver (Stefon Diggs) the same day, in a deal with the Bills, the Texans only got a second round pick in 2020, and the Texans ended up paying all of David Johnson's $11 million guaranteed salary in 2020. From there, Johnson gave the Texans two seasons of terrible football, and they blew the second round pick on defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, who they traded for a sixth round pick before the 2022 season. Arizona probably envisioned Hopkins spending the rest of his career there, and certainly expected more winning, but they did get one Pro Bowl season out of him (2020), which is enough to keep the trade score a rout for the Cardinals, despite Hopkins missing 15 games due to injury or suspension in 2021 and 2022.

What does this latest chapter do to Hopkins' legacy?
Through seven seasons (2013 through 2019). Hopkins was in the express lane to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with three straight first team All Pro nods in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He was entering his age 29 season when he was traded to the Cardinals, and added a Pro Bowl campaign in 2020. There is no doubt, though, that the last two seasons have damaged Hopkins' Hall of Fame candidacy. When he played, he was typically still the best receiver on the field, but his availability waned due to injuries and a PED suspension. The easiest barometer for Hopkins' and the Hall of Fame is doing a comparison with the Texans' other all time great receiver, Andre Johnson. Right now, the Pro Football Reference similarity scores for their respective careers have Andre Johnson's career as most similar to six all of Famers among the top seven most similar. Hopkins' career is most similar to just two Hall of Famers among the top ten. Getting waived by the worst team in football while still in his prime won't help Hopkins' case either.

Could he come back to Houston and play for the Texans?
Well, it would appear that Laremy Tunsil wants it to happen:
While you can make a strong argument that getting Hopkins would be exactly what a young QB like C.J. Stroud needs, Hopkins probably doesn't see the Texans (nor Stroud himself) at the proper stage of their life cycle for him. He basically said as much on the "I Am Athlete" podcast a week or so ago, which brings us to....

What is Hopkins' most logical landing spot?
The five quarterbacks Hopkins named when asked who the top quarterbacks with whom he'd like tp play were Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert. The major problem with those five signal callers is that they are all playing on, or about to play on, top of market QB contracts. Salary cap space would be an issue, if getting paid top dollar is a priority for Hopkins. If he is willing to take a discount and/or be flexible with contract structure, NFL teams can make anything work. Outside of the five teams above, all of whom make sense as a fit, I would add Cleveland (reunited with Deshaun Watson), both New York teams, and perhaps even Detroit as good fits.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast