DeAndre Hopkins already is good enough to become fodder for training-camp trash talk directed at Darrelle Revis. Hopkins apparently isn’t good enough yet to earn a second contract from the Texans.
The fact that Hopkins wisely decided a day after launching a holdout that the Texans held all the cards (and soon would be holding a lot of his money) doesn’t change the fact that he deserves a new contract. Every draft pick who becomes a great player deserves a new contract when he becomes eligible for a new contract after his third season ends. But more on that in a paragraph, or two.
For now, the Texans don’t seem to be inclined to give Hopkins a new contract. G.M. Rick Smith (who recently was rewarded for a decade consisting mainly of “meh” with another new contract of his own) said Saturday on NFL Network that there are no negotiations with Hopkins, via James Palmer of NFL Media.
Yes, the Texans have the right to force Hopkins to play every snap of every game of every year of his five-year rookie deal. They also have the right to apply the franchise tag in 2018, extending his stay to six years before he gets a long-term deal. If willing to give him a 20-percent raise over his 2018 tag, they can do it again in 2019 — tying him up for seven years without Hopkins ever getting the kind of life-changing security he deserves.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be happening. Five years ago, when the NFL parlayed the prevalence of first-round busts into a wage scale that dramatically reduced the money that went to players taken at the top of the draft, the league didn’t include a device for ensuring that the non-busts would still get their money. Instead, the NFL has left it to the goodwill of the teams to reward the first-rounders who would have earned the millions they’ll never see under the new wage scale.
“My argument to that is one of the things that clubs are doing over the past several years is when they see someone perform at a level higher than they may have anticipated, they adjust and they try to avoid them becoming free agents by signing them to long-term deals,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told PFT in 2010.
Apart from the term in the 2011 CBA that delays from two years to three years the ability to sign draft picks to new contract, teams still aren’t required to do anything. And the Texans, who gave 2011 first-rounder J.J. Watt a new deal after three years but won’t give one to Hopkins after three years, apparently aren’t inclined to do anything.
The end result is that Hopkins will be required to continue to bear the risk of injury, earning far less than he has proven he’s worth because there’s no way that he can force the Texans to do what Goodell predicted teams would do with players who outperform their rookie deals. The better and more fair approach would be to take some of the money they didn’t have to pay to Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, and give some of it to Hopkins.
The Texans don’t seem to be willing to do that for now, and if Hopkins suffers a career-altering injury in 2016 they may not be doing it ever.