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Mo’ Power, Mo’ Problems: Texans Free Agency Predicament

Challenges Await Texans “New” General Manager

The $55.2M in projected cap-space for the upcoming 2020 season gives the Texans some room to resign players and restructure a few contracts, but new GM Bill O’Brien will need to get creative as the team is expected to hand out hefty contract extensions for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans just signed OLB Whitney Mercilus to 4 year, $54M contract extension during this season. His base salary will jump from $5.75M in 2019 to $10.5M in 2020. (sportrac.com)

Image courtesy of Chron.com

The latest rumors in regards to the Houston Texans current cap-space and draft pick situation suggest that Bill O’Brien will shop ILB Bernardrick McKinney in an attempt to gain possible draft capital. The Texans lost a first and third round pick in this year’s draft while acquiring protection and offensive weaponry for Watson. McKinney was signed to a 5 year extension in 2018. His contract includes $21 million in guarantees and boasts an overall value of $51,163,880 million, making his cap figures fall between $7.5M and $10.25M annually all the way into 2023. (sportrac.com)

Image courtesy of usatoday.com

Free Agency Dilemma

With a plethora of unrestricted free-agents set to hit the market this off-season (19), B.O.B. is tasked with making the all important and crucial decisions regarding who goes, who gets extended and how much they get when they re-sign. Much like the situation in the previous year with Kareem Jackson and “The Honey Badger” in the secondary, the Texans are expected to allow Bradley Roby to walk in free agency. O’Brien has a short history with not ponying up in order to retain top-notch talent. The signs are there. Roby’s 2019 average annual value (AAV) of approximately $10M is relative to what Tyrann Mathieu was worth on the market just a year ago, and Houston let him walk. Latest reports are that Roby would like to stay in Houston.

Image courtesy of SI.com

Veteran Jonathan Joseph is also expected to leave the team in free agency, though most likely due to age rather than monetary misalignment between him and the team.

Here are some potential free agent targets at defensive back for the Texans and their current AAV:

  • Trae Waynes, 28, MIN – $3.2M
  • Eli Apple, 25, NO – $3.7M
  • Jason Verrett, 29, SF – $3.6M
  • Brian Poole, 27, NYJ – $3M
  • Daryl Worley, 25, OAK – $3M

Here are other free agents that are comparable to Bradley Roby’s market value:

  • Chris Harris, 31, DEN – $12M
  • Jimmy Smith, 32, BAL – $10.2M
  • Logan Ryan, 29, TEN – $10M
  • Ronald Darby, 26, PHI – $6.5M

(sportrac.com)

Image courtesy of usatoday.com

The Texans and O’Brien would be better off targeting players that reflect youth and a lower average annual value if they want to make the most of improving their pass defense. Letting some lesser known defensive backs currently on their roster test the free agency market would be the best route and would allow them to pursue a player like Byron Jones whose AAV is presumably hovering above or around $7M.

O’Brien will face other choices in the secondary regarding retaining someone like former Oakland Raider Gareon Conley over other players like Vernon Hargreaves. Conley will earn a base salary of nearly $1.9M in 2020 with Houston. Hargreaves, who singed a 4 year deal with Tampa Bay in 2017, will earn a base salary of nearly $10M in 2020 in Houston. His base salary for 2019 was just under $1M.

O’Brien also seems hard pressed to extend the up and coming, D.J. Reader. His market value has been on the rise earning him something in the 5 year, nearly $60M range. That equivocates to an average annual salary of nearly $12M. The Texans will likely tag and keep the promising young defensive lineman, similar to the Jadeveon Clowney situation we saw play out over the course of several seasons.

Image courtesy of HoustonChronicle.com

Here is a list of other free agents on the Texans roster, not previously mentioned, that are set to hit the market this off-season (sportrac.com):

  • Lamar Miller
  • Barkevious Mingo
  • Ka’imi Fairbarin
  • A.J. MCarron
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Brandon Dunn
  • Darren Fells
  • Jahleel Addae
  • Mike Adams
  • Taiwan Jones
  • Jon Weeks
  • Chris Clark
  • Phillip Gaines
  • Tyrell Adams
  • Deandre Carter
  • Dylan Cole
  • Roderick Johnson
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Photo courtesy of SI.com

O’Brien would most likely try and keep some of these names in an effort to stay competitive while also improving the team. Retaining a name like Carlos Hyde with a market value of $3.1M over bringing back Lamar Miller for $6.5M are places where B.O.B. can start to make informed and practical choices that will set the team up nicely down the line. While bringing in someone like Melvin Gordon will make the fan-base salivate, his $11.7M market value would put a damper in the $55.2M in cap-space that the Texans are trying to stretch out. Signing Hyde to a 2 year $6M deal would put him on par with RBs that have similar contracts and comparable rushing statistics (Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray). That is merely one example of the many scenarios B.O.B. will need to consider in an effort to move the Texans onto a path that culminates with a Lombardy trophy.

Calculated Market Values for Notable Players

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Image courtesy of SI.com

The Watson and Tunsil extensions are expected to be hashed out at some point before the next season, but they will eat up a healthy chunk of the cap-space. Take a look at a few other notables that could potentially do the same. (sportrac.com)

  • Watson – $35.8M
  • Tunsil – $18.3M
  • Reader – $11.9M
  • Fells – $4.4M
  • Cunningham – $12.3M
  • Hyde – $3.1M

Both Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are only under contract for one more season and Houston has zero draft picks in the 1st and 3rd rounds this year. They may lean on the draft to shore up depth at the WR position so as to not be all in on the often-injured Fuller. With the talent at the receiver position in this upcoming draft it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Texans looked there to develop an option for the future instead of trading up or paying up in free agency. The same would apply for edge-rushers. Houston could tag and trade D.J. Reader, much like how Baltimore will seemingly do with Matthew Judon, and then simply pull young talent from the draft.

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Below is the current list of 2020 draft picks for Houston by round, they will also be without a first round pick in 2021:

  • Round 1 = 0
  • Round 2 = 1
  • Round 3 = 0
  • Round 4 = 1
  • Round 5 = 1
  • Round 6 = 1
  • Round 7 = 1

Whatever the approach for B.O.B. and Jack Easterby is in the draft, it will be guided by how they handle personnel in free agency and in the trade market. “Trader Bill” has already put feelers out in the form of shopping McKinney in order to acquire more draft capital. We can also speculate on a few extensions that help to shape direction the team is traveling. One thing is for certain, 2020 will be make or break for B.O.B. the GM. Anything less than a trip to the AFC championship game would be considered a huge disappointment for the franchise, and there would be no one left to place the blame on but Bill O’Brien.

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Image courtesy of ClutchPoints.com

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AUTHOR MILES PEACOCK CONTRIBUTES TO THE TIMESKEWED.COM AND RUMBOYZ.COM FANTASY WEBSITES. HE COVERS THE HOUSTON TEXANS AND FANTASY FOOTBALL RELATED CONTENT. FOLLOW MILES PEACOCK ON TWITTER @FF_PEACOCK.

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