Texans paying heavy value for silly front-office technique

Two of the extra necessary second-round picks in current NFL historical past will come subsequent month when the Texans’ choice home windows open. A franchise missing a first-rounder till 2022 wants cost-controlled belongings, and its followers require a purpose to belief an unusually structured entrance workplace.

It sounds unusual to assign such stakes to second-round picks, however after the occasions of the previous a number of months, how Houston proceeds on Day 2 of April’s draft can be essential. This can be Invoice O’Brien’s first draft in his coach-GM-czar position, which feels odd contemplating how a lot has occurred since he grew to become the Texans’ de facto boss. 

Earlier than O’Brien took energy in June 2019, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt offered optimism for a Texans leap from second-tier contender to Tremendous Bowl menace. The selections O’Brien has since green-lit have threatened to deprive Texans followers of any hope the Watson window won’t be squandered.

Houston traded Hopkins,  a top-five huge receiver, to Arizona for a haul worse than second-tier wideouts fetched in recent times. It acquired a top-10 left sort out in Laremy Tunsil, however that commerce not solely price the Texans two first-round picks and a second-rounder. The value O’Brien paid gave a one-time Professional Bowler immense leverage to grow to be the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman.  Houston revamped its defensive employees after Patrick Mahomes nuked their No. 26 DVOA unit, however its solely notable free-agency transfer was re-signing Bradley Roby –- a mid-level No. 2 cornerback. 

Watt goes into his age-31 season and coming off three extreme accidents in 4 years. For a staff that went 21-11 over the previous two years and employs one of many sport’s greatest younger skills in Watson, the Texans characteristic a strikingly unstable basis. As free company cools down, pinpointing the surefire strengths of this perennial playoff menace is harder than it needs to be. The Texans are paying for his or her silly resolution to present GM energy to a head coach whose .542 profitable proportion ranks 12th amongst energetic coaches. 

Piling on O’Brien for the Hopkins commerce — some of the broadly panned swaps in years — virtually appears redundant. It’s true elite huge receivers haven’t helped safe many modern-era Tremendous Bowl parades. Earlier than the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, the final top-five huge receiver to be a part of a championship staff was in all probability the 2006 Colts’ Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne tandem. 

But when the perfect the Texans might pry from the Cardinals was a second-rounder and David Johnson’s albatross contract, then conserving Hopkins was the transfer. Even when he was looking for a brand new contract, the brand new CBA limits holdouts’ choices. 

Handing soon-to-be 30-year-old Randall Cobb a three-year, $27 million deal solely worsens the optics – particularly when now-No. 1 Houston wideout Will Fuller resides as one of many NFL’s most injury-prone gamers. The Texans with Hopkins and 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde featured an immensely extra harmful and reliable (and cost-effective) offense than an offense with Cobb and Johnson, who every peaked within the mid-2010s.

O’Brien cannot afford any extra nickels-on-the-dollar trades. He already botched one in every of these transactions, amassing a third-rounder and spare components for Clowney after the Chiefs and Seahawks respectively fetched higher hauls for much less embellished pass-rushers Dee Ford and Frank Clark.

An offensive-minded coach who has but to provide a top-10 Texans offense, O’Brien has commandeered extra energy than he’s earned. However chairman Cal McNair, bumped to the highest of the Texans’ hierarchy after founder Bob McNair died, needs to be held accountable for permitting this to occur. When O’Brien and Invoice Belichick are the NFL’s solely present coach-GM figures, the identify alongside Belichick’s seems bizarre. The Texans botched their GM pursuit of Belichick right-hand man Nick Caserio final yr, however Caserio’s contract expired in 2020. Not pursuing him or one other GM this yr predictably backfired.

O’Brien is on the verge of becoming a member of an undesired group of executives who screwed up promising conditions in recent times. Possible the one purpose O’Brien has 4 AFC South titles as a substitute of 1 or two: ex-Colts GM Ryan Grigson failing to assemble a satisfactory offensive line or merely a viable roster round Andrew Luck. Bengals owner-GM Mike Brown’s refusal to spend in free company to additional complement Andy Dalton allowed Cincinnati’s playoff-win drought to achieve 29 years. Barring one thing surprising, Bears GM Ryan Tempo can be identified extra for passing on Mahomes and Watson than constructing a championship-caliber protection. Cardinals GM Steve Keim had practically bottomed out earlier than executing this Hopkins heist.

In a vacuum, Hopkins could not have been important to constructing a Tremendous Bowl-caliber roster. However the three-time All-Professional/contested-catch maven caught 29.3% of the Texans’ 2019 passes -– the league’s third-highest proportion –- and blended completely with a younger passer identified extra for play-making potential than pocket precision. With Fuller and Kenny Stills in contract years, Cobb is the one noteworthy Texans receiver signed past 2020.

Watson is ready for a large extension this yr or subsequent, however the Texans’ choices throughout their quarterback’s rookie-contract window have proven little to point they will handle a roster with a franchise-QB wage atop the payroll.

It will likely be a bittersweet event when Watson indicators his extension. The Texans -– until they do one thing utterly loopy -– will then have their franchise cornerstone locked up. However their actions throughout the years when it was simpler to construct round the perfect quarterback in franchise historical past complicate their future.

If the Texans don’t change course quickly, Watson needs to be hesitant to commit his early prime to this franchise.

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