Heading into 2023, the topic of Bill Belichick’s job security has been a discussion here in New England, but Sunday’s news of DeAndre Hopkins heading to Tennessee is a reminder that Belichick isn’t the only head coach under some pressure this season.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has been a name that has come up when it comes to his own future, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if that provided a little bit of additional motivation when it came to the Hopkins sweepstakes.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Tennessee reportedly structured a contract that potentially puts Hopkins closer to the $15 million mark (after incentives), which would match the similar total that Odell Beckham Jr. received in Baltimore.
That was seemingly enough to sway Hopkins into joining Vrabel in Tennessee, which is certainly disappointing and prevents Mac Jones from adding an explosive target to his arsenal.
Why the Patriots weren’t willing to go that high is indeed a question, but they’re probably a little gun-shy when it comes to trying to overpay receivers given their recent track record. After all, this is the same team that signed Nelson Agholor to a two-year deal worth up to $24 million, with Agholor never living up to the money he was paid.
Agholor finished 2022 with 31 catches for 362 yards and two touchdowns, along with just 38 receptions for 491 yards and three touchdowns in 2021.
He finished tied for fifth in receptions (with DeVante Parker) last season and fifth in catches in 2021, hauling in nearly half as many as former Patriots wideout Jakobi Meyers, who was paid significantly less over that same span.
But while Hopkins has familiarity with Bill O’Brien’s offense, he also shares some familiarity with Titans coordinator Tim Kelly, with Hopkins having played one season in Kelly’s offense. That potentially makes the transition a little smoother there for the veteran, along with the fact Hopkins also spent time with Vrabel in Houston when Vrabel was a position coach.
As for Vrabel, things went badly to close out last season. After getting off to a 7-3 start, the Titans closed out the year with seven-straight losses. Considering the talent that Vrabel has had and the trajectory the Titans had seemingly been headed on, that likely didn’t sit well with ownership.
Obviously, giving Vrabel the financial ability to court Hopkins and keep him away from Belichick is clearly a good sign for his future, but it doesn’t change the fact that finishing with a sub .500 season with what’s a pretty talented roster may potentially put him in jeopardy.
For now, Vrabel wins the free agent battle in landing Hopkins, which certainly weakens his former coach’s team. At the same time, how things turn out for both coaches will ultimately decide who really won this exchange.
After seven-straight losses, Vrabel seems to be the one more in need of helping people forget about how 2022 ended. But with one of the top defenses in the league and a still relatively good group of players on offense, Belichick will also have his work cut out for him.
Needless to say, the pressure is on for both coaches, with Belichick’s team heading into its fourth season still looking for a postseason win since Tom Brady’s departure ahead of the 2020 season.
They’ll meet on August 25th in a preseason match-up in Tennessee, which should be fun to watch given today’s news.
However, should they each rebound and end up making it to the postseason, if they face off next January, that will only make things that much more intriguing for two guys who will both likely have plenty at stake by then.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick DeAndre Hopkins Mike Vrabel New England Patriots Tennesse Titans