With the return of the player that some people believe is the heart and soul of the Houston Texans, Dunta Robinson, I couldn't help but think of another great player on the roster who currently has a contract dispute--DeMeco Ryans. I understand why some people believe that Robinson is so critical to the Texans, but I think he has been surpassed in terms of importance by the man wearing #59 in the middle. The Robinson situation is far from resolved because negotiations will and can not happen during the season, since Dunta did not sign his one-year tender by the deadline this summer, therefore, all bargaining will cease until after the 2009 season.
It's hard to remember that DeMeco was in the process of a holdout just a few months ago. His unhappiness over his contract has taken a backseat behind Robinson and even Owen Daniels, who proclaimed his anger with the Texans front office on his Facebook account. I've always thought, however, that DeMeco had the most legitimate reason to complain out of the three. Dunta is coming off an injury that could have been career-ending and has not shown the same ability as he did before the injury, and OD has demonstrated a great deal of talent but at a position which makes him somewhat replaceable (see James Casey).
DeMeco is now the most pivotal player on our defense. Please note that I did not say "most talented," because that would end up opening a completely different can of worms, and one of those worms is named Mario Williams. I challenge you to find an interview of a Texans defensive player in which he refers to Ryans as anything but "Captain 'Meco". That is not arbitrary; rather, it is a testament to DeMeco's leadership ability on and off the field.
DeMeco isn't just a figurehead either. His authority is derived from what he produces on the field. Just this last Monday, in the closest thing to national exposure that the offseason can produce, Ryans had a staggering 16 tackles, 2 of which were for loss, and a sack. It worked for DeMeco, who was recognized for his efforts by national writers such as Peter King.
I really believed he would be paid by now. Part of that belief stems from the fact that he is so good. I am not a proponent of paying everyone that shows any talent, but DeMeco has changed the face of this defense. The other reason I thought DeMeco would be a richer man by now is due to the ease with which he's handled the contract issue since he ended his brief holdout. That is by no means scientific, but I figured that he dropped the subject because his agent Ben Dogra was near to completing a deal with general manager Rick Smith.
We might assume that a new collective bargaining agreement will be struck between the NFLPA and the owners, which could eventually lead to DeMeco becoming an unrestricted free agent after the season. Despite the other notable free agents next year, DeMeco is by far the most important to the team. If the Texans don't have an agreement before the end of the season they will have to either pay out the nose for his continued service or use the dreaded franchise tag, which would ensure that Dunta could hit the market with no fear of getting tagged again (assuming he played well enough to warrant consideration).
There is a chance that DeMeco could get a deal along the same time frame that Eric Winston got his; in other words, once the season has already started. I hope that one way or another, Ryans gets paid soon because I don't see the benefit of waiting. The only way that he wouldn't warrant a huge contract would be injury or seriously degraded performance, both of which would leave a gaping hole in the middle of our defense.
Personally, I just want to see the man get paid. And as opposed to Dunta and Owen, I don't really care about the price.