DeAndre Hopkins' production in 2016 was down sharply from the previous season, and you don't have to be an expert at reading between the lines to see that head coach Bill O'Brien clearly attributed that to historic struggles of QB Brock Osweiler when OB offered this up in his presser at the Combine in Indianapolis yesterday:
What do you think happened to WR DeAndre Hopkins last season that didn’t allow him to put up big numbers?
O’Brien: "He still had like 80-something catches. So he dropped off in catches and he dropped off in yards, but he did make some big plays for us during the season. We were 9-7, we won the AFC South. He made some important plays in those games. Third down plays, red area plays. As far as production and things like that, yeah the production dropped off a little bit but it wasn’t anything that he did. I think he’s a great player. I love coaching the guy and I’m looking forward to coaching him next year."
If Hopkins' performance dip was not representative of his true ability and more of a factor of poor QB play and the entire offensive unit struggling last season (spoiler: it was Brock), then Nuk should be high on the list of priorities for long-term planning for this team.
DeAndre Hopkins was selected 27th overall in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and will be entering the final season of his rookie contract as the Texans exercised the fifth-year option to retain him on his rookie deal for 2017. It would be prudent for Houston to extend a long-term contract offer to him sometime before the start of the regular season to avoid letting him test free agency next year. Although the Texans could always franchise Hopkins to keep him around in 2018, that wouldn’t come cheap and could end up costing the team more money down the road. Indeed, the cost of getting Hopkins signed long-term may be challenging enough already when you consider the latest contract the Steelers just inked with Antonio Brown, making him the NFL's highest paid wide receiver with a four-year deal worth $68 million.
On that note, here is what Texans general manager Rick Smith had to say about re-signing Hopkins when Smith met with the media (complete transcript can be found here) today:
"Our goal is to keep all of our good, young players, and DeAndre is a good, young player. So, yes, we are absolutely intent on re-signing him. When that happens is up for debate, but he's definitely in our plans. He's an excellent young football player and we certainly want to continue to build around him."
For his part, Hopkins talked about wanting to stay with the Texans when he was interviewed during the Super Bowl that was recently hosted in Houston:
"I love this organization and what this team is doing," Hopkins said. "It seems like we're getting better and better every year, so why not?"
"We're doing everything we can to help out this team," Hopkins said. "We know we didn't have a productive offensive season last year, but we're definitely working on everything we need to work on.
"There's a lot I can improve on. I didn't have the season I wanted to have statistically. With my team's success, we're still not where we want to be. We won a playoff game. Just kind of whoever my quarterback's going to be, just to get some work in with all those guys."
"Luckily, I had a guy like Andre Johnson to show me the ropes," Hopkins said. "He's had many quarterbacks in his career and he still had a successful career. Just having a guy like that to tell me to control what I can control, that's really all you can do."
We'll be keeping a close eye on this as Hopkins' agent and Rick Smith hammer away at an extension to secure this Top-5 NFL wide receiver for the long haul. What are your thoughts? Do you think the Texans get a deal done with Nuk before the first game of the regular season? Any thoughts on how much Hopkins will get now that Antonio Brown has set a new bar?