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Flurry of NFL Grandfather Deals: Hopkins Next?

Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Background: HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals talks with DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans after the game at NRG Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Houston, Texas.

Over the past week, NFL fans have been seeing teams finalize what I would call “grandfather” deals:

QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: 10 years @ $450M

DT Chris Jones, Chiefs: 4 years @ $85M

DE Myles Garrett, Browns: 5 years @ $125M (extension)

RB Derrick Henry, Titans: 4 years @ $50M

To be “grandfathered” is to be locked in for years to come on a money figure, often just in the nick of time when there is great uncertainty as to what the market will look like over the years to come.

These are noteworthy deals that have ensured the players the kind of guaranteed money security that they and their agents were coveting.

However, the deals come with a substantial risk, particularly in light of the rumors of a potential $50 decrease of the salary cap in 2021 and possibly in 2020.

The one much anticipated, high profile deal that did not get done was between QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. Rumors were that the Cowboys were offering a multi-year deal in the $33-$35M a year range with $105M guaranteed. If true, one has to wonder why Prescott and his agent didn’t accept it—-choosing instead to play on the $31.5M franchise tag salary for 2020.

It should be interesting to see whether Dak or the Cowboys are the eventual winners.

Hopkins Next?

One of the next big “grandfather” signings that NFL fans are likely to see is the Arizona Cardinals signing WR DeAndre Hopkins to a long-term extension. Chances are very strong that Hopkins would still be with the Texans had he not requested a new contract with three years remaining (but the guaranteed money gone) on his previous contract.

Thus, when the Cardinals agreed to send RB David Johnson, their 2020 2nd round pick and their 2021 4th round pick to the Texans in exchange for WR DeAndre Hopkins and the Texans’ 2020 4th round pick, there was the expectation that the Cardinals would sign Hopkins to the new contract that set this blockbuster trade in motion.

What will the numbers likely be?

Here is the current top 10 list of WR salaries in the NFL (per sportrac):

  • 1. Falcons WR Julio Jones: $22 million
  • 2. Cowboys WR Amari Cooper: $20 million
  • 3. Saints WR Michael Thomas: $19.3 million
  • 4. Bengals WR A.J. Green: $18.2 million
  • 5. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill: $18 million
  • 5. Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr.: $18 million
  • 7. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans: $16.5 million
  • 8. Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins: $16.2 million
  • 8. Texans WR Brandin Cooks: $16.2 million
  • 8. Vikings WR Adam Thielen: $16.2 million

My guess: 5 years @ $120M with $70M guaranteed, thus making DeAndre Hopkins the highest paid WR in the NFL at $24M a year—-and thereby resetting the salary bar at WR.

The buzz surrounding this contract should be very positive for the Cardinals and DeAndre Hopkins, but the contract is likely to rankle CB Patrick Peterson if the Cardinals elect not to grandfather him—-and it could very lwell mean that if WR Larry Fitzgerald wants to keep playing for the Cardinals beyond this season, he would have to agree to a pay cut several million below his current $11.7M salary, particularly if the salary cap is decreased by $50 in 2021 and possibly in 2022.

With the splash of big, record-setting contracts, there are always ripple effects in the salary cap pool.

On another note:

Back at the beginning of the off-season when the rumor was that T D.J. Humphries was asking for $15M a year, one of the proposals I offered was for the Cardinals to let Humphries test free agency in favor of signing UFA T Kelvin Beacham (with ties to OL coach Sean Kugler back to his Steelers’ days—-plus was #3 in NFL in pass block win percentage at 94.2%, behind only David Bakhtiari 95.7% and Andrew Whitworth 94.3%) and drafting one of the top tackles in the 2020 pool—-while in the process saving over $10M to put toward other free agents.

Again—-I like D.J. Humphries for his natural talent and engaging personality, but it was difficult (at least for me) to justify his warranting of $15M a year in light of his extensive injury history and the fact that his 64.5 PFF grade in 2019 was ranked #40 among tackles who played in over 500 snaps. D.J., argues that he played well in all 16 games and only gave up 2 sacks. The Cardinals are investing in D.J.’s potential and hopefully it will be a win-win for everyone.

Just the same, the Cardinals now have all three on the roster: D.J. Humphries, Josh Jones, one of the top 2020 NFL Draft T prospects who was miraculously available at pick #72) and Kelvin Beachum—-in addition to Justin Murray, Marcus Gilbert, Joshua Myles and Brett Toth. Talk about tackling the depth at the position!