The Texans’ decision to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught the entire football world off guard — including Hopkins’ old teammate J.J. Watt.
Prior to the official start of NFL free agency in March, Houston unexpectedly sent Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick to Arizona in exchange for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Texans general manager and head coach Bill O’Brien was roundly criticized for the light return, but Watt didn’t join the crowd when asked about his reaction to the deal.
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He also didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement of O’Brien’s managerial skills.
“Anytime you have a guy like Hop, who in my opinion, has the best hands in the game and is obviously one of the top receivers of the game, it certainly catches your eye, that’s for sure,” Watt told Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina. “It’s always tough to lose a guy like that, no matter what the situation is. It’s above my pay grade and it’s something that obviously the team and the organization feels is in the best interest of the team.
“So as a player on the team, I do my job and I go to work and I play the games, and the GM and the owners, they do their job and they try and do what they feel is best for the team. And so, all I can do is show up and go to work and hope that all the guys that we have are great contributors to our team.”
O’Brien also used the “best interest of the team” line while defending the trade, saying Hopkins wanted a raise despite having three years left on his current contract and the Texans couldn’t accommodate his request. Hopkins later claimed it was a strategic move because he knew it would ultimately lead to a trade, adding that he had “no relationship” with O’Brien.
Regardless of the exact reasoning behind the deal, the Cardinals were happy to add the four-time Pro Bowler to their roster. Hopkins, who totaled 104 catches and 1,165 yards in 15 games last season, should quickly become Kyler Murray’s favorite target.
As for Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offensive unit, well, they could always try Watt at tight end.