In his first public comments since the trade, Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien defended the decision to send All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals last month.
"I would say the deal with Arizona was a deal that we felt was in the best interest of our team," O'Brien told season-ticket holders on a conference call Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle. "We love DeAndre Hopkins, but he had three years left on his deal, and he wanted a raise. We weren't going to be able to go in that direction."
O'Brien also touted the package the Texans received in return. Houston acquired the Cardinals' 2020 second-round pick and running back David Johnson while also swapping their own 2020 fourth-round pick for Arizona's fourth-rounder in 2021.
"We felt like we had a great offer from Arizona that involved picks," O'Brien said. "It involved an excellent three-down running back who's hungry and humble and can't wait to get started. David Johnson is going to be a great addition to our football team."
The trade was widely panned and has brought heavy criticism upon O'Brien, who has served as the Texans' de facto general manager since GM Brian Gaine was fired last June, less than 18 months after Gaine was hired. O'Brien officially added the GM role to his title on Jan. 28.
In a story published by The Athletic on Wednesday, an anonymous executive from another team called the trade "a joke," adding, "How the David Johnson contract was included in the deal just astounds me."
Johnson is due $11.2 million guaranteed this season, the third-highest salary of any running back in the NFL. The 28-year-old has totaled 2,191 scrimmage yards (averaging 4.8 yards per touch) and 16 touchdowns over the past three seasons after posting 2,118 scrimmage yards (5.7 average) and 20 touchdowns during his All-Pro season of 2016.
Hopkins, who turns 28 in June, is coming off three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections, tallying 315 catches for 4,115 yards and 31 touchdowns in 46 games over that span. He has three years and $39.9 million -- none guaranteed -- remaining on his contract.
Multiple reports since the trade have described friction between O'Brien and Hopkins, including the team's concerns about Hopkins' tendency to miss practices and sometimes pre-game warmups before playing through injuries in games.
O'Brien was clear that his focus is on his group of players, rather than an individual.
"Whatever decisions we make will be made in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said. "Capital T. Capital E. Capital A. Capital M."
Team chairman and chief operating officer Cal McNair said he remains confident in O'Brien and executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby leading the personnel department.
"It's important that the focus is the team," McNair said, according to the Chronicle. "I would think as a fan, I would be really excited that your leadership can make bold moves and can go make the moves that make the team better. It's an exciting time for us."
--Field Level Media