There are two prominent former Texans that are fresh on the open market. The Arizona Cardinals made the hard and painful decision to release their number one wide receiver. They will be on the hook for 22 million in dead cap money. Hopkins likely will go ring chasing at this point in his career. but we should probably at least explore what a reunion might look like.
Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins. pic.twitter.com/c0f9UaabYA— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 26, 2023
The reasons for the reunion are virtually the same as the reasons to add J.D. Clowney. They are presumably good players with something left in the tank. They are better than guys you currently have on the roster. For a team that will be in business to win as many games as possible, even if either of these guys adds just one victory over the course of the season it could be well worth it.
What would a deal look like?
Understanding the salary cap is a full time job. Thankfully, Over the Cap has done the hard work for us. According to them. the Texans have a little more than 15 million available to spend. However, much of that is earmarked for the 2023 draft class. Neither Will Anderson nor C.J. Stroud have officially signed yet, so ultimately they have about 2.5 million in actual available spending money.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough to sign either Clowney or Hopkins. However, they do have a few veterans they can cut. In particular, Christian Kirksey is already without a starting job after all of the free agent signings. Cutting him nets you 5.25 million whether you cut him now or after June 1st. Jerry Hughes would net you 3,50 million if he is designated as a post lune 1st cut. That’s 8.75 million.
That by itself should be enough for Clowney, but if you want DHop you will need to do some creative structuring. After all, he signed a two year extension on his Texans deal in 2020 for 54.5 million. Various sites have him worth about twice your available cap per season. Teams are able to do these kinds of deals all the time. You add in a huge signing bonus to an extra long contract and all kinds of intricate language and they can get there. The question is whether they should.
What does each bring to Houston?
There are always two ways to look at this. Clowney struggled in a lot of ways in Cleveland, but put up a 75.8 PFF score overall. He was one of the few edge defenders to put up 70 or higher grades as a run defender and pass rusher. That’s better than anyone currently on the Texans. Put him opposite Will Anderson and you create some significant issues for offensive coordinators.
After his rookie season, Clowney had only one season where he didn’t earn a grade of at least 70. He’s had only two seasons with an 80 grade or better, so he didn’t live up to the number one overall pick pedigree, but he is definitely a better football player than everyone on the defensive line with the exception of maybe Anderson.
Hopkins has six such seasons to his credit, but 2022 was not one of them. Of course, he missed the first portion of the season due to a PED suspension. He had 64 catches in nine games and while that seems like a lot, there are some signs that maybe he is not as efficient as he used to be when he was one of the top two or three receivers in the entire NFL.
Clowney had a much better 2021 than 2022. He had nine sacks that season with eleven tackles for a loss and 19 quarterback hits. He has never been a double digit sack guy, but he has always been someone capable of completely blowing up a running game. I think many could definitely see a DeMeco Ryans defense unlocking some of that and getting the best out of him.
Hopkins might be a different matter altogether. There are two stats that measure a receiver’s efficiency and both of them were pointed downwards for Hopkins. The first one is what percentage of catches he makes per target. It’s so easy to focus on catches, but the guys that get 100+ catches are high volume guys. Are they giving you bang for your buck? Here are his numbers for percentage of targets caught and yards per target since leaving the Texans.
2020: 115 catches, 160 targets, 71.9%, 8.8 yards per target
2021: 42 catches, 64 targets, 65.4%. 8.9 yards per target
2022: 64 catches, 96 targets, 66.7%, 7.5 yards per target
The catch percentage is actually higher than his career average, but the yards per attempt is well below career norms. If Robert Woods is the best wide receiver currently on the roster, then comparing the two makes a lot of sense. Woods, sported a 5.8 yards per target last year (career 7.7) and had a catch percentage under 60 percent. His career average is 63.1 percent. So, Hopkins is still better, but how much better is he?
The Final Verdict
The question with Hopkins is whether he is a good long-term investment. In some sense he is. If he plays for a few more seasons he will reach some impressive career milestones. He sits at 853 receptions and a little over 11,000 yards. So, if healthy he should surpass 1000 catches and 13,000 yards in two seasons. He might surpass 80 touchdowns as well. Those are Hall of Fame numbers.
Yet, you will pay him like a number one receiver when he might not be capable of producing on that level much beyond this season. The Texans almost certainly plan to either draft or sign a WR1 in 2024, If you sign him to the kind of contract he will command then he becomes your WR1. It certainly will aid in Stroud’s development in the short term but might hinder your flexibility in the long-term.
Clowney is a different story. He is a season to season mercenary at this point. You sign him to the same kinds of contracts you have been giving everyone else and hope he produces in his short time here. If he doesn’t you really haven’t hurt anything long-term. Obviously, fan reaction to both guys is going to be mixed. Hopkins is much more beloved because of what he accomplished here and the nature of his exit. What do you think? Would you like to see a reunion with either of these guys or are you content to see them finish their careers elswhere?