Bill O’Brien and his Houston Texans have completely changed the landscape of their future in the past week with a Texans Trade Bonanza. Will the wheeling and dealing provide the Texans with the springboard they need to achieve AFC glory? Or will mortgaging their future come back to bite them?
Clowney and the Franchise Tag
The ongoing saga of Jadeveon Clowney’s contract extension has finally been wrapped. The Seattle Seahawks gave up a 3rd round pick in 2020 as well as linebacker duo Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo. Clowney was unable to reach an agreement on a long term deal in the lead up to the franchise tag being activated.
Rumours were abound of a falling out between Clowney and Coach/defacto GM Bill O’Brien towards the end of last season. Their irreconcilable difference probably meant that Clowney leaving was inevitable. However, can the Texans replace his pash rushing ability and production with what they already have on the roster?
Texans O-line woes leads to Tunsil
For as long as DeShaun Watson has been under centre for the Texans, he has been running for his life. Watson has been sacked an incredible 81 times in just 22 starts since arriving from Clemson. Now, The Texans #4 is not completely blameless. He can hold onto the ball too long at times. However, his O-line has done him no favours. When you can’t travel to a game by air, and have to rely on bus travel, you know there is a problem looking after the QB. The news of Andrew Luck’s retirement due to multiple injuries will have no doubt jarred the Texans into thinking about protecting Watson more effectively. In fact, Houston’s offence line troubles can be traced back to the decision to ship Duane Brown to the Seahawks in 2017, if not further.
The Texans appeared to have been gazumped by the Eagles in the draft when it looked like Andre Dillard would be their guy. Bill O’Brien instead identified Laremy Tunsil of the Miami Dolphins as the answer. They were able to secure the 2016 first round pick, alongside team mate WR Kenny Stills, for 2020 and 2021 first round picks, 2020 2nd round pick. Depth chart duo Johnson Bademosi and Julien Davenport were also thrown into the mix.
Analysis of Texans Trade Bonanaza
In the end, Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien got what he wanted. Jadeveon Clowney is out of the building, and franchise QB DeShaun Watson has a high end blindside protector. But at what cost?
The Clowney trade kind of makes sense. No team seemed willing to give up more than a 3rd round pick for a guy still on a franchise tag (except Miami – where Clowney allegedly refused to go) The Texans were keen to ship him out, for whatever reasons. They would have only picked up a 3rd round compensatory selection if he walked at the end of this season. They were also able to grab a couple of special teams contributors if nothing else. That being said, I’m sure most Texans fans would rather have Jadaveon Clowney wrapped up on a long term deal.
The Tunsil trade is a little more risky. No doubt Tunsil has proven to be one of the better young tackles in the league since signing in Miami. However, the deal smacks of short-termism by O’Brien. It really highlights the issue of not having a General Manager in place. Coaches by their nature look to the immediate issues. Coaches want to win, and win now. This is understandable as the average tenure of an NFL head coach is just less than 4 seasons. GMs, in general, provide the franchise with a long-term vision. O’Brien has taken a huge risk in signing Tunsil and giving up 2 first round picks, and 2nd round pick. He is most definitely in ‘win-now’ mode.
It could go well and the Texans rise to the occasion. However, if it all goes wrong the Texans don’t have much to fall back in the draft of the next few years. Yes, they have a huge amount of cap space to try and throw money at free agents, but with Watson and Tunsil’s contracts looming on the horizon they have to tread carefully. Also, throwing money at high-profile free agents isn’t a fast-track to success as many franchises have found out.
One thing is for sure, things won’t be dull or boring in Houston this season.