DeAndre Hopkins explains decision to join Titans, warns don’t write team off

The Tennessee Titans made a summer splash earlier this month, inking wide receiver and five-time Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins to a two-year deal worth a maximum $32 million. Hopkins presumably becomes the Titans’ No. 1 wide receiver, while the team gets a much-needed boost on the outside. 

Is this a match made in heaven?

Hopkins expressed Monday why the Titans were an ideal landing spot for him.

“I am very happy,” Hopkins told the Titans’ team website about making the move to Nashville. “This was a team that as soon as the offseason hit, and I knew I was possibly going to be traded, this was a team that was on my list of places that I wanted to play because of the history [head coach] Mike Vrabel and I have, the history [offensive coordinator] Tim Kelly and I have.

“I wanted to be somewhere where I knew people had my best interests, not just on the field but off the field as well.”

Prior to being named Tennessee’s head coach in 2018, Vrabel was a defensive assistant (linebackers coach and later defensive coordinator) for the Houston Texans from 2014-17. Hopkins spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career (2013-19) with the Texans and then competed against Vrabel and the Titans in the AFC South from 2018-19. 

Meanwhile, Kelly was an offensive assistant for the Texans from 2014-21, serving as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2019. Hopkins logged 1,100-plus receiving yards in five of his seven seasons with Houston, while also logging 10-plus receiving touchdowns in three of those years.

Last season, Hopkins totaled 64 receptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals. He was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy and then missed the last two games due to a knee injury. The year prior, Hopkins missed eight combined games (regular season plus postseason) due to a hamstring injury. 

Hopkins, 31, was released by the Cardinals in May after they couldn’t work out a trade for the veteran receiver and the $54 million remaining on his previous contract.

Hopkins “absolutely” wants to prove that he’s still an elite wideout, while warning the NFL world not to sleep on the 2023 Titans.

“I feel like I’ve always had something to prove, and that’s how I play my game,” Hopkins said. “The decision to come to Nashville, obviously, made a lot of people mad. But I kind of felt at home being here from the get-go, from early on.

“Tennessee is a team not many people put on their list, and I think I am not just speaking for myself, but the team as well, people are writing us off.”

Hopkins joins a Titans pass-catching group that includes 2022 draft picks Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and free agent signee Chris Moore. Tennessee struggled mightily in generating offense through the air last season, averaging just 171.4 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL). 

The Titans began last season 7-3 before losing their last seven games, a stretch that included quarterback Ryan Tannehill going down for the year with an ankle injury in Week 15. Tennessee lost its last game of the season on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars in what was a win-or-go-home matchup for the AFC South division title. 

The Titans had made the playoffs every year from 2019-21, including a trip to the AFC Championship Game in the 2019 season.

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