Texans executive Vice President Jack Easterby pushed the team to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last offseason, Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bishop report.
Four sources told Sports Illustrated that Easterby was the first, and most persistent, advocate for the team dealing the star receiver. Former Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien was previously regarded as the primary advocate for dealing Hopkins to the Cardinals.
One source told Sports Illustrated that on multiple occasions in 2019, Easterby told a small group of people that “we need to move on from that person,” referring to Hopkins without using the wideout's name. Another source told SI that they later learned the Texans discussed trading Hopkins as early as the summer of 2019.
Hopkins, who made four Pro Bowls in seven years with Houston, was dealt to the Cardinals this past March in exchange for running back David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-rounder. The Texans also sent a fourth-round pick to Arizona.
This past spring, Hopkins recalled to Sports Illustrated that he was working out with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in Los Angeles when he received a call from O'Brien, then still the Texans' coach.
"There was no relationship," Hopkins said of O'Brien, who would be fired as the Texans' coach after an 0-4 start to the 2020 season. "Make sure you put that in there. There's not a lot to speak about."
In mid-April, Hopkins told reporters that he wasn't surprised by the trade after spending seven seasons with the Texans. He revealed to Sports Illustrated that he was looking to go to a new team and knew how to set that plan in motion.
"Asking for a little raise would lead to the outcome that I got," Hopkins told SI, "which is the outcome that I wanted."
However, as Bishop and Vrentas wrote this week, "Hopkins’s trade left a void in both the offense and the locker room." The Texans are currently 18th league-wide in points scored per game and 16th overall in yards gained.
Hopkins, who signed a two-year extension with the Cardinals following the trade, is currently second in the NFL with 85 catches.
Easterby was hired as the team's executive vice president in April of 2019. He previously served as the Patriots' team development director and character coach from 2013-2018 and was a team chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2011-12.
According to Sports Illustrated's investigation, many in Houston describe Easterby "as an authority figure whose leadership style sowed distrust and division, at times flouting rules and straining relationships inside the building."
The Texans are currently 4-8 and face the Bears in Week 14.