DeAndre Hopkins

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins celebrates with fans after an NFL wild card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 4 in Houston. The Arizona Cardinals acquired the three-time All-Pro receiver in a trade that will send running back David Johnson and draft picks to the Texans.

The news of the Arizona Cardinals trading for star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Monday was a welcome respite from the constant bombardment we are all facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

While news coverage of the virus outbreak is essential and incredibly important, it has understandably increased our anxiety.

But the NFL goes on. And without any actual sports being played on the field or on courts across the country, the NFL free agency period has provided some wildly compelling sports stories.

On Monday, the Cardinals traded declining running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans to land Hopkins.

Houston, we have a problem. Its name is Bill O’Brien, and he has no business being the team’s GM. He also happens to be the Texans head coach.

Just how big of a deal is this trade for Hopkins? It immediately transforms Arizona from an interesting team with upside to a playoff contender. I’m not here to predict the Cardinals will make the playoffs, but they are now a legit team and a legit postseason contender.

That’s how great Hopkins is. Playing for a nondescript franchise like the Houston Texans, he isn’t necessarily a household name. But if he played for the Cowboys, Steelers, Bears or Giants? He would be a superstar of the highest order.

Those who know football know about Hopkins’ greatness. Heck, anyone who plays fantasy football knows about his dominance.

The 27-year-old receiver who played college football at Clemson is a three-time first team All-Pro and has caught 54 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons, including a league-leading 13 TDs in 2017.

In the last three seasons, Hopkins has averaged 105 receptions, 1,371 yards and 10 TDs.

What’s the one position on offense where the Cardinals need the most help? Receiver.

An aging but still effective Larry Fitzgerald and talented but inconsistent Scottsdale product Christian Kirk were the only real targets for quarterback Kyler Murray in his 2019 rookie season.

That is to say, he didn’t have much in the way of weapons. Hopkins changes all that.

Murray, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, has shown that coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim made the right decision taking him with the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft and trading Josh Rosen.

But Murray needs help, and boy does he have it now. A rejuvenated Fitzgerald, who is now the No. 2 receiver, and continued improvement from Kirk as the No. 3 option would make a formidable wide receiver trio in the desert.

When Murray heard about getting Hopkins on Monday, he was no doubt doing backflips in his living room at the thought of throwing the ball to arguably the best receiver in the NFL.

Why did O’Brien do such a dumb thing and trade away Hopkins for the equivalent of a six-pack of Bud Light and some chips?

Hopkins reportedly told the Texans he was looking for a contract extension in the neighborhood of $18 million to $20 million per year. If that’s true, it was clearly a financial decision — not that it would make it the right decision.

Former Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin said Wednesday a major factor that precipitated the trade was a meeting O’Brien had with Hopkins. According to Irvin, O’Brien told Hopkins the last time he had a similar meeting was with (convicted murderer) Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end with the Patriots.

Irvin said O’Brien also criticized Hopkins (who has multiple children with different women) in the same meeting for having his “baby mamas” around the team too much.

Hopkins later poured ice water on that fire on social media. He did not confirm or deny the accuracy of Irvin’s comments, but he wanted to move past the drama.

“This is being blown way out of proportion,” Hopkins wrote on Twitter. “As I’ve said before, I enjoyed and am proud of my time with the Texans. I have the utmost respect for Coach O’Brien and that will not change. Now, I’m ready to play for the Cardinals.”

Regardless of the circumstance, the Cardinals were given a a gift. They won this trade in a landslide.

I wish the best to Johnson moving forward, but after an MVP-caliber 2016 season, he has never come close to that production again. He was benched last season, and the unexpected emergence of Kenyan Drake made him expendable.

Kingsbury wanted to bring some approximation of his “Air Raid” college offense to the NFL. With Hopkins in the fold and Murray at quarterback, I envision Kingsbury as giddy as Dr. Evil with a new laser beam.

I’m taking credit for this moniker now: the “Air Squad” unit of Murray, Hopkins and Fitzgerald is ready to take flight.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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