The coronavirus has the sports world essentially turned upside down, but the fallout doesn’t mean that everything is going to come to a complete halt. While the NHL, MLB and NBA try to figure out how to bounce back from COVID-19 and the damage it has done, the NFL is still plugging away, trying to get through free agency and an impending draft without stirring up more health issues.
DeAndre Hopkins Trade To Arizona?
And just to remind everyone that they are still very much alive and active, the league dropped a bombshell on Monday, with the Houston Texans trading away their star wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, to the Arizona Cardinals in what instantly looks like one of the worst sports trades of all time.
The Texans sent Hopkins AND a fourth-round pick to Arizona for running back David Johnson, already on the downside of his career, and a second- and fourth-round pick. According to ESPN, the Texans will take on all of Johnson’s salary. Johnson, who signed a three-year, $39 million contract extension in 2018, has cap hits of $10.2 million in 2020 and $7.9 million in 2021.
Hopkins is owed $14 million in 2020, $15 million in 2021 and $13.9 million in 2022.
This came the day after the players ratified the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) securing labor peace for the next 10 years. Any political vote that ended as close as this one would see candidates screaming bloody murder and demanding a recount, but it isn’t clear if the agreement is going to cause such an uproar. It passed with 1,019 saying yes and 959 saying no, with around 2,500 players eligible to vote.
A difference of 60 votes, with about 400 players not having participated – those who didn’t now have no recourse to complain. It really could have gone either way, and there’s no doubt that those against the CBA will find ways to keep their voices heard this season. Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints already has, expecting to see a lot of “load management” as players look to offset the addition of the 17th regular season game.
With the CBA settled, it’s time to get down to business. As shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, free agency is finding teams ready to use their tenders and tags as quickly as possible, and the Saints have already pulled out a free pass. The team put a tender on Taysom Hill and, if another team tries to steal him away, the Saints have first dibs on pulling him back in for the same amount of money. Hill would be joining Drew Brees and, possibly, Teddy Bridgewater, giving the Saints a trio of terror under center.
Brady Situation Uncertain
Tom Brady still has a couple of days to settle any differences he may have with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but things are starting to look a little uncertain. The Pats just used a tag on offensive guard Joe Thuney, and the financial tie-up could lighten New England’s wallet as it tries to negotiate something with Brady. If a deal can’t be worked out, there’s always Tampa Bay.
From Saturday through today, 14 free agents found themselves locked into their current positions as their respective teams pulled out their tags. This is eight more than what was seen ahead of last season, and the most since before the start of the 2012 season, when 21 were used. Thuney wasn’t the only unexpected player to be tagged, and several others, if they thought they were about to pack their bags, will have to suck it up for another year.
The Vikings tagged safety Anthony Harris and the Arizona Cardinals dropped one on running back Kenyan Drake. Pass rushers like Matthew Judon of the Baltimore Ravens and Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers are also staying at home because of their tags.
The use of the tags isn’t too surprising. There are a number of teams that are going to have a considerable amount of cap space, and there are also a lot of teams (some might say all of them) that are going to be hurting because of the coronavirus, unable to pay the price to beat out a competing contract. Using the tag is, given the circumstances, the best way to keep the talent from leaving.
The Miami Dolphins are a good example. They had the most salary cap space of any team going into this offseason, and signed former Giants tackle Ereck Flowers to a three-year deal worth $30 million – $19 million of that is guaranteed. When the Giants let him go a year and a half ago, it was because they thought he had fizzled even before getting started. However, he was picked up by the Washington Redskins, moved from tackle to guard and has improved his game, as well as his value.
There’s still a lot of free agency movement to come, and the next two days are going to see a flurry of activity. There’s also the question of the upcoming draft, which is still scheduled to take place April 23-25. It will, as of now, still be held in Las Vegas, but all the ancillary public events have been canceled, and the actual draft will most likely not take place in front of a live audience. There’s still a month to go before the draft, and anything can happen between now and then.