Former 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans Could Coach Ex-$54.5 Million Pro Bowler: Report

DeMeco Ryans

Getty DeMeco Ryans throws out the first pitch at a May 15, 2023 Houston Astros game.

DeMeco Ryans could be witnessing one Houston homecoming in his first season away from the San Francisco 49ers, following a surprise visitor at the Houston Texans’ facility.

Via John Crumpler of Texans Wire on USA Today on Thursday, June 1, the franchise received this stunning visitor: Former $54.5 million target plus franchise-leading wide receiver De’Andre Hopkins paid a visit.

“Multiple sources have confirmed to me that free agent wide receiver and former franchise star DeAndre Hopkins visited with the Houston Texans while in Houston this past week,” Crumpler said.

Hopkins has been searching for an NFL home following his release from the Arizona Cardinals on May 26 in a salary cap move. The five-time Pro Bowler has since become a “long shot” to land with the Buffalo Bills per The Athletic’s Tim Graham. He has been linked as a possibility to the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs. However, Hopkins’ salary could prevent one or all of those teams from signing him. Hopkins also had a well-publicized trade done by the Texans in 2020 that led him to Arizona.

Hopkins’ reentry to Houston would certainly boost both ticket sales for Ryans’ first campaign as head coach as well as galvanize a much different wide receiving group in Houston. Ryans is having to replace last season’s leading receiver Brandin Cooks and signed former NFC West rival Robert Woods during March. Hopkins, before being traded in 2020, established himself as a four-time Pro Bowler in Houston.

Sources Rank Ryans as 1 of the Best Coaching Hires

Time will tell if Ryans is able to re-land some star power for his first Texans offense. But with or without “D-Hop,” Ryans’ hire has won over some executives who spoke with Heavy NFL senior reporter Matt Lombardo Thursday.

Ryans came in ranked as the second-best head coaching hire for the 2023 hiring cycle in a column featuring insight from various unanimous exeuctives.

“It’s an easy choice for me,” an AFC Scouting Director told Heavy. “It’s DeMeco Ryans. They’ve upgraded the talent on that roster significantly, and they finally have a head coach with sustainability.”

Ryans is already installing a 49ers-esque approach for his first defense, and has brought over past defenders Hassan Ridgeway and Jimmie Ward to lead the way.

Ryans really hit the roster hard on draft night. In day one of the festival, Ryans not only swooped up his quarterback of the future C.J. Stroud, but made the aggressive move to add the No. 3 overall pick — which they used to get their future pass rush igniter in Will Anderson Jr.

An NFC personnel executive echoed a similar sentiment the scouting director made to Lombardo. The source cited the Texans‘ easy road in the AFC South as a potential driving force for Ryans to orchestrate a quick turnaround.

Ryans is one of two new coaches in that division alongside Shane Steichen of the Indianapolis Colts, who ranked behind the former 49ers defensive coordinator.

And at No. 1? Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos was ranked as the best hire ahead of Ryans.

New 49ers DC Has Fan in Veteran Defender

Meanwhile, Ryans bequeaths a stacked defense that starts up front. And that includes leaving a longtime veteran like Arik Armstead to get used to a new defensive coordinator in Steve Wilks.

But Armstead has already warmed up to the new leader of the S.F. defense.

“Coach Wilks has been amazing thus far,” Armstead said to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on his podcast. “We aren’t changing much, but I think Coach Wilks brings a different element. He has been more of a secondary focus, back-end coach throughout his career. So from a back-end perspective, communication, and how we are covering guys in the back end, I think he’s going to help us tremendously.”

Furthermore, Armstead likes Wilks’ persona.

“And he’s a great human being. He’s a great leader as well. He communicates effectively, clear, you know what you’re going to get out of him,” Armstead said. “And I’ve had a few friends that played for him before I even met Coach Wilks. They text me like, ‘Man, you’re going to love him.’ He’s a great coach.”

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