NFL free agency unofficially began with a shocking blockbuster trade Monday when the Cardinals acquired four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans for running back David Johnson.
Arizona also got a fourth-round pick with Hopkins, per the Houston Chronicle's John McClain, while Houston got two picks with Johnson, a second-rounder this April and a fourth-rounder in 2021.
Hopkins, signed through 2022, was set to earn $12.5 million in 2020. Johnson is set to earn $10.5 million this year. So money-wise in a veteran-for-veteran move it's a wash. Unfortunately, football-wise, it's a lopsided deal.
DeAndre Hopkins trade grades
WR DeAndre Hopkins
2020 fourth-round draft pick
RB David Johnson
2020 second-round draft pick
2021 fourth-round draft pick
One of the Cardinals' biggest offseason needs was a true No. 1 go-to wide receiver for second-year QB Kyler Murray. Now Murray will get to experience what Deshaun Watson had — a smooth route-runner who can take over games catching passes at high efficiency all over the field. Hopkins' consistent coverage attention also makes Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk more dangerous as complementary targets for Kliff Kingsbury's high-volume spread passing game.
Johnson was a tough contract to dump, but the Cardinals lucked out in getting a taker in the Texans. He was a completely expendable offensive cog with Kenyan Drake, who was transition tagged, taking over as Kingsbury's prolific feature back of choice down the stretch last season.
As for also giving up the picks, the Cardinals didn't even have to part with a 2020 first-rounder, with which they can solely target a bookend tackle for D.J. Humphries now. The NFC West is a tough, offensive-minded division with the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams, so the Cardinals had to increase their firepower to keep up. Steve Keim wasted no time to give Kingsbury and Murray exactly what they needed to take the next step in Year 2.
The Texans were in the market for a running back with Carlos Hyde and Lamar MIller heading into free agency. David Johnson will be the automatic starter, with holdover Duke Johnson Jr. now being a little a used receiving-oriented backup.
David Johnson is 28. He played in only 13 games and was essentially benched for Drake after dealing with a few injuries around midseason. The Texans aren't one of the better checkdown-to-back offenses in the NFL and will need to get creative in using the converted wide receiver's skill set.
The Texans now need to dive into a deep class of wideouts without a first-round pick, because they can't go into the season with oft-injured Will Fuller and Kenny Stills as their only two reliable options at the position.
Hopkins makes the Cardinals a much better team. Johnson makes the Texans no better than they were in 2019, and probably worse.