Houston, We Have a Major Problem
Bill O’Brien’s decisions as a general manager could soon drive away his franchise QB
I, like most, had the same reaction when I saw the news that superstar wide receiver Deandre Hopkins had been traded from the Texans: What the hell is going on in Houston? Trading away your young, franchise quarterback’s favorite target was definitely a head-scratching move; but when word came out of what the Texans received in the trade, the feeling turned comical. How do you not receive a first round pick in return for a top three receiver in the league. The only reason you would make a move like that is in order to receive at least one first round pick, possibly two. Hopkins is a nightmare for opposing defenses, and his numbers prove it. He has back to back 100+ catch seasons (115, 104), he has accumulated 8,602 receiving yards over his seven-year career (with his career low being 802 yards during his rookie season), and he has arguably the best hands in the NFL (0 dropped passes on 115 catches in 2018).
Somehow though, head coach and acting general manager Bill O’Brien could not get a first round pick for that type of player. Instead, O’Brien received a second round pick, a fourth round pick, and running back David Johnson from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for Hopkins and a fourth round pick.
Most people believe the Texans lost the trade by a wide margin, and for good reason. Not receiving a first for Hopkins is one thing, but receiving David Johnson was another. Many believed Johnson’s contract was untradable. His current deal makes Johnson the third-highest paid running back in the NFL ($13 million average salary per year). This amount of money seemed plausible after Johnson’s 2016 season, where he accumulated more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. However, Johnson’s 2016 is starting to seem like an anomaly. He hasn’t had an 1,000 yard season on the ground since 2016, and is coming off a terrible season which only saw Johnson rush for 345 yards in 13 games.
Now the Texans are stuck with a declining, expensive running back, when that wasn’t even a position of need for the team.
Last season, Houston had running back Carlos Hyde, who finished the season with 1,070 rushing yards in 16 games played. While Hyde was an impending free agent, the Texans could’ve resigned him for much less than David Johnson’s current contract. Instead GM O’Brien decided to go with the more expensive running back who produced less last season.
This wasn’t the first confusing move made by O’Brien however. At the start of last season, the Texans traded for Miami Dolphins tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills. The problem wasn’t trading for those players necessarily, it was how much the Texans gave up for them. Miami received the Texans 2020 first round pick, 2021 first round pick, and 2021 second round pick.
Kenny Stills is a decent wide receiver at best. He has never had 1,000 receiving yards in a season, nor has he had more than 63 catches in a season. Tunsil on the other hand is a solid young tackle, but he has his flaws. He led the tackle position in penalties with 18 last season, 14 of which were false starts. Giving up two first round picks and a second round pick for these players was just another showing of Bill O’Brien being a poor general manager.
While these moves are puzzling, the Texans still have franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson to help solve their problems. Or do they?
After the Hopkins trade, Watson started sending out cryptic tweets using song lyrics, leading some to believe that the star QB may want out of Houston. Watson’s first tweet which caused a stir, was lyrics from the Drake song “Emotionless”. The tweet read “i don’t know how i’ma make it out of here clean. can’t even keep track of who plays for the other team.. iconic duos rip and split at the seams”. Watson wasn’t done there however, tweeting out “Don’t deal with the lies and the frauds. That’s why I don’t get involved. .Wassup..?” which are lyrics from Lil Uzi Vert’s song “Wassup”.
With three years remaining on his deal (pending the Texans picking up the fifth year option), it may be difficult for Watson to find his way out of Houston. Not impossible however with O’Brien running the show. Deandre Hopkins had four years remaining on his deal, and he was moved. If Watson truly is unhappy with the moves the Texans are making (and who can blame him), then there is the possibility he could force a trade out of Houston.
A player of Watson’s caliber would garner at least two first round picks. A move which would allow the Texans to start a full rebuild. But with O’Brien still being the general manager, I wouldn’t have much confidence in anything the Texans do going forward.