On last Friday’s conference call, Cal McNair alluded to there being other things coming down the pipe that we’re going to make fans really excited (are you excited?). Bill O’Brien was adamant that every football season is different (no way!); he’s not trying to win March but is trying to win January, and I guess now is trying to win April. After the DeAndre Hopkins trade, it didn’t seem like the 2020 Houston Texans were set. Other moves would be made. Even after last night’s Brandin Cooks trade, it still feels the same way.
Houston pretty much traded DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson, Brandin Cooks, and the ability to move up 17 spots in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Personally, I’d rather have Hopkins. He’s a top three wide receiver. Last season’s ‘down year’ was the result of a decision that moved him to the slot—a decision made so Houston could play ball control and keep their defense off the field.
The Hopkins trade to Arizona was never about money. Bill O’Brien wanted DeAndre Hopkins gone. Houston soaked in more money than they sent out, plus they got rid of a player with three years left on his contract who has no leverage to hold out. The Cooks trade solidified this reality. The Texans gave up four years of a cost-controlled player for the exact same contract in Cooks.
There’s something to be said about depth. There’s something to be said about the T.E.A.M. Beyond the quarterback position, football is a game about the entirety of the roster rather than individual players. Great individual players give the roster the ability to not spend elsewhere because the strengths of their position group(s) extend past and lift up other’s weaknesses. See Russell Wilson and Seattle’s offensive line, San Francisco’s defensive line, or Baltimore and New England’s secondary. Whether three good players are more important than one great one is an interesting question to sit there and think about it when you look out the window.
But the Texans didn’t get three good players for Hopkins. They picked up David Johnson, a player past his prime who was the third running back in Arizona last year, a guy who doesn’t break tackles and is three years removed from his one great season. He isn’t this every-down running back Bill O’Brien claims him to be. Brandin Cooks fit in perfectly as the deep receiver for New England and Los Angeles when he was swapped for a first round picks a few years back. Cooks is a very good player when he’s healthy, but he’s had five concussions and disappeared last season. It’s Year Seven and he’s 27. There are valid concerns how much he’ll contribute ever again, and he could be one more disgusting hit away from calling it quits. Neither player is a trinity of tough-smart-dependable.
Cooks is also redundant with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills in the roster. Each player can do the same type of things. I’d rather have Fuller, Stills, and Pick #57 than Cooks for $8 million this year if it becomes a one-year rental situation. Cooks is a boundary receiver who outruns cornerbacks down the sideline. All of the cute stuff the Rams did with him two years ago—the jet sweeps, the quick drags—I wouldn’t expect in Houston because it’s an entirely different offense, and again, the head injuries.
This Cooks trade doesn’t seem like a standalone trade either. Randall Cobb wasn’t a Hopkins replacement; he was a Keke Coutee replacement. Cooks doesn’t fill a need Houston has. Instead, it seems like this is a trade before a Fuller or Stills trade, where one or both are moved for draft picks or a veteran pass rusher.
I still don’t think the Hopkins trade was a good one. I don’t think this is a good trade either. But I don’t think either move is going to be a total disaster. I learned my lesson after the Jadeveon Clowney trade last season. Was the Texans’ pass defense worse last year? Yes. Would Clowney had been the difference against Baltimore, or Denver, or Kansas City? No. When you have a fringe top five quarterback in Deshaun Watson, trades like this will never be disastrous. Houston’s offense is going to be worse with Cooks and Johnson than it was with Hopkins, but it’s not going to destroy the Texans’ chances to win the AFC South. However, this trade is not the type of one smart teams who build consistently great rosters make. It’s not going to push Houston past their divisional round January hump. Houston is going to miss that second round selection they just lost once Watson is paid $35 million a year or whatever it comes out to.
Here are the rest of the masthead’s thoughts.
We traded one of the best contracts in the league for two of the worst. And we received a 2022 pick? Not one in this draft. Not the draft after that. But a draft in three years. You could almost get a degree by the time that pick comes to fruition. What are we doing man? Has O’Brien not looked at the league since 2016? Brandin Cooks, David Johnson, and Randall Cobb were great in 2016...but that’s long gone.
Brandin Cooks doesn’t inspire me. It would be a good decision if we still had Hopkins. I’ve lost trust in this organization.
We have yet to improve our roster. I would much rather have the 57th pick. It would take a lot of the pressure off the 40th pick. I was hoping at 57 we would draft a cornerback to improve the defense, but now we are going to be like the 2018 Oklahoma Sooners—all offense and no defense. All Houston sports are turning into a carnival show.
I’m going to go watch TikToks now. Leave me be.
*”yellow tape around his body” blares as Kenneth leaves the chat*
I wish trades didn’t exist.
Is there not a competition committee that can veto these trades?
At first glance, I was irate, but after thinking about it more, I’m not that mad at it. I think we were planning on taking a receiver at 57 anyways and there’s no receiver we could select with any of our picks that has Cooks’ elite deep threat ability. And that’s the style of receiver we needed the most. We already got Cobb to replace the misused Hopkins’ work from the slot last year. We needed someone who could replicate Fuller’s game, so that when he inevitably gets injured, our offense doesn’t crumble.
Am I mad at the big picture of essentially trading Hopkins for David Johnson and Brandin Cooks? Yeah, of course. But looking at this trade individually, it’s not the worst BOB trade, so there’s that.
Looking at the additions to the offense—Cooks, Cobb and David Johnson—it seems like we’re really loading up to be more pass heavy. Is this the end of the establish the run, pound the A gap era? One can only dream.
Taken solely on its own merits, I’m not sure this is as awful as it seems. But as soon as you note the “has 5 concussions” tagline on Cooks and then look at Houston’s inability to protect players from hamstring injuries, concussions and more, it begins to look like O’Brien is trying to bring in the second half of the Will Fuller season since we all know Fuller won’t make it 16 games—ever. Maybe between the two guys they get could get sixteen starts?
When you look at it in the context of the bigger picture, specifically knowing the company line of giving up DeAndre Hopkins because he wanted a raise, spending more on his replacements than they would have spent on him, it conjures images of a Family Guy rendering of Bill O’Brien standing on the roof of NRG, fiddle in hand, while the place burns underneath him, Nero-style.
This isn’t the worst move O’Brien could have made. I still dread seeing the breaking news that O’Brien signs Jameis Winston, trades Deshaun Watson to New England for a 4th round pick in 2024 and a backup tight end, and convinces J.J. Watt to retire and take the role of assistant to the regional manager all in one fell swoop.