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My Two Cents: Despite Lazy National Narrative, Titans Get Deal Done With WR DeAndre Hopkins

The national media never took the Tennessee Titans serious when it came to talking about a landing spot for free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but their hard work and persistence from Day 1 led to getting a deal done. Their close personal ties to him helped, too, and now the Titans are dramatically better than they were a few days ago.
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NASHVILLE — If you watch all the national TV sports talk shows — and fewer and fewer of you seem to be doing that every day — you would have never known that the Tennessee Titans were the leader for free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins right from the beginning.

Heck, watch enough ESPN or FOX and you might not know that the Titans are even in the NFL. They are so far under the national radar these that it's laughable.

That's why there is such a weird national reaction to reports on Sunday that Hopkins has agreed to a two-year deal with the Titans. Everybody wonders why? Well, the Titans had all the right answers for Hopkins from Day 1, and in the end, it worked.

They were the leader all along; it's just that no one ever said that nationally.

Hopkins has 853 receptions for 11,298 yards and 71 touchdowns during his 10-year career. He spent his first seven years with the Houston Texas, where he was an All-Pro, and the last three with the Arizona Cardinals, where he dealt with injuries and a drug suspension and only played 19 games over the past two years.

The Titans think there's still plenty in the tank, and they should know because their connections with Hopkins go way back. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel was the linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator for the Texans when Hopkins was getting Pro Bowl invites. And when first-year Titans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly was calling plays for the Texans in 2019, Hopkins had 104 catches for 1,165 yards. 

That Vrabel-Kelly connection to Hopkins was even hard at work in April in the days leading up to the draft. The Cardinals, it seemed, were prepared to move on from Hopkins and his huge contract, which included a $30 million-plus cap hit this season. The Titans, who were having plenty of conversations with the Cardinals about the No. 3 overall pick in case Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud slipped past No. 2, also had conversations about Hopkins, but the sides were never close to being able to finalize a deal in April.

Four weeks later, on May 26, the Cardinals simply released Hopkins. Now he was fair game, and the Titans were the first to pounce. They reached out immediately, with new general manager Ran Carthon, Vrabel and Kelly tag-teaming the efforts to get him to Nashville for a visit and some very serious conversations.

Several other teams had conversations with Hopkins and his people, but it was the Titans who got the first visit in mid-June. The two days in town went well, and then he jetted off for a visit with the New England Patriots.

Here's where the national narrative got laughable. Even when Hopkins was actually in the Titans' facility, guys like ESPN's Mike Greenberg was all about his love affair with the New York Jets, not even mentioning how Hopkins might fit in Nashville. He talked about the Patriots and how it would work for the Jets and that's it.

Stephen A. Smith did the same on his ''First Take'' show. His deal is ragging on the Cowboys, which he did and is often entertaining, and all of his football experts that day talked about the fit with the Patriots and who else might jump in, teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills.

The Titans were never even in the conversation.

What they all missed was that the Titans really, really, really wanted to get this Hopkins deal done. Those Vrabel and Kelly ties are strong, and Hopkins has a lot of love and respect for them, too. 

Hopkins could care less about Bill Belichick and the Patriots, despite all the Super Bowls. Those mean nothing to him.

If the Chiefs or Bills could have afforded to pay him $30 million over two years, Hopkins might have pulled the trigger with one of them, just to chase a ring. That didn't happen, not even close.

The Titans offered the best deal — and it was the best deal all along — which mattered to Hopkins. He also likes the idea of playing with a veteran quarterback like Ryan Tannehill, and a dominant running back like Derrick Henry, whom he considers a friend. 

And Nashville, let's face it, is a great place to live. 

The Titans really need him, because they have what is probably the least productive wide receiver group in the NFL before his arrival. They had only two 100-yard receiving games last season. Hopkins has done that 35 times.

It was Bill Parcells who often said that you are what your record says you are. A lot of people think the Titans aren't very good, but Hopkins suddenly makes their receiving corps dramatically better. Treylon Burks can now be the No. 2 — or a really fun-to-watch 1B — which is fine. The second-year pro from Arkansas is going to have a big year, too.

Let's remember that the Titans started last season with a 7-3 record, and if you are what your record says you are, then that's pretty good. It wasn't until Tannehill got hurt and the offensive line fell apart and offensive coordinator Todd Downing proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was in over his head that Titans fell off the cliff.

They finished 0-7 and even lost the last game of the year when they still had a chance to win the AFC South despite the six-game losing streak. Instead it was the Jacksonville Jaguars who won the division with a 9-8 record. 

Jacksonville is the heavy favorite to win the AFC South this year, but the Titans absolutely closed the gap on Sunday. How much? Not sure, really, but Hopkins makes that much of a difference, especially if Kelly can get the most out of this offense. A healthy Tannehill, a better offense and play-caller in Kelly, a better offensive line and now a better weapon on the outside? That's all good.

So despite the national yawn over this Hopkins pursuit the past seven weeks, the Tennessee Titans are a much better team today than they were yesterday.

And maybe the nation will notice. But probably not.

  • HOPKINS SIGNING WITH TITANS: The Tennessee Titans have won the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes and will be signing the star wide receiver according to a recent report from A to Z Sports' Doug Kyed. CLICK HERE
  • VRABEL KNEW DAY EARLY: Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel has been playing golf at the American Century Championship this weekend and after the Hopkins' news broke on Sunday, Vrabel admitted to ESPN's Pat McAfee he knew about the move a day earlier. CLICK HERE