On a day when much of the country was hunkered down at home, the Arizona Cardinals took the Houston Texans to the cleaners.
In a deal more one-sided than a Hollywood backlot, the Cardinals unloaded an expensive running back with production in decline for one of the best players in the NFL.
Arizona acquired All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, recently voted by his peers the 11th best player in the league, for running back David Johnson, who in the last three seasons hasn’t come close to the robust numbers he produced in 2016.
Though the move isn’t likely to tip the balance of power in the NFC West, it gives the up-and-coming Cardinals an elite playmaker on the other end of Kyler Murray’s passes. In the last three seasons, Hopkins has caught 315 passes for 4,115 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“His catch radius is ridiculous. Ridiculous,” Jets safety Jamal Adams said of Hopkins in the NFL Network’s Top 100 video. “There’s nothing else to be said.”
Arizona outside linebacker Chandler Jones wasn’t understated in his Twitter reaction, but he was succinct: “BEST NEWS IN 2020!!!”
There were draft picks involved too. The Cardinals gave up a second-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2021, and got Houston’s fourth-round selection this year.
The trade cannot be completed until the official start of the league year Wednesday at 1 p.m. PT.
The NFL began Monday by announcing the draft — or at least a scaled-down version — is staying put and will take place in Las Vegas April 23 to 25, without the fans and associated festivities amid coronavirus concerns.
The league has yet to reveal details of what the draft might look like, although an individual familiar with the discussions said everyone involved with the production of the event, including team representatives, prospects and media, would have to be tested for COVID-19 and cleared.
Of reducing the scale of the draft, Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “This decision reflects our foremost priority — the health and safety of all fans and citizens. While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”
The league also announced that, following discussions with the NFL Players Assn. and consultation with medical staff, teams will delay indefinitely the start of their offseason programs.
Over the course of the next several weeks, the league’s top doctors — in consultation with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network and NFLPA advisors on infectious disease control — will develop a set of protocols for teams regarding facility cleaning and maintenance, equipment preparation, steps to identify players and staff who might be at higher risk, and other preventative measures.
Soon after the morning announcement on the draft, teams were in a full scramble to mark the start of the legal-tampering period, the two-day runway before free agency officially gets underway. Around the country, clubs committed tens of millions of dollars to players, kicking up dust in a sports world otherwise filled with tumbleweeds.
While many teams used the franchise tag to hold on to some of their best players — among them Dallas with quarterback Dak Prescott, Tennessee with running back Derrick Henry, Kansas City with defensive tackle Chris Jones, and Tampa Bay with outside linebacker Shaq Barrett — other big names are heading to new cities.
Cleveland made former Atlanta standout Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, agreeing to a four-year deal reportedly worth $10.5 million annually.
San Francisco, which has invested a fortune in its defensive front, kept defensive end Arik Armstead off the open market with a five-year deal reportedly worth as much as $85 million, then agreed to send defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis in a trade.
Chicago agreed to a deal with tight end Jimmy Graham, who was released by Green Bay last week. Quarterback Case Keenum agreed to a three-year deal with Cleveland that averages $6 million per season to be Baker Mayfield’s backup. Indianapolis is looking into signing former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.