It's just a couple of digits strung together. It has zero meaning by itself. Yet to me, it's a number that I have been grumbling about and exasperated with since the news arrived about Glover Quin's departure to Bawitdaba with Kid Rock in Detroit.
23.5, 23.5, 23.5, 23.5, 23.5. Even Maximilian Cohen would be impressed by the amount of time I have stressed over and tried to decipher 23.5. Luckily, I don't have any power drills laying around. Instead of trying to find a beautiful perfect number that governs our existence, I have tried to understand why Rick Smith let Quin walk and what the Texans' offseason plan really is. Whatever Smith's reasoning is for the loss of Quin, It seems Smith has three options at the bottom of his Plinko board: Sign Ed Reed or some other comparable veteran stop-gap safety, replace Quin with someone in-house, or find a replacement in the draft.
By signing Ed Reed or another safety to replace Quin, the Texans are trading a better current and long term option for a more expensive, less productive, short term player. The best safeties signed so far in this year's market are LaRon Landry (signed by the Colts for 4 years and $24 million ($6 mil per year), with $14 million guaranteed), Dashon Goldson (signed by the Buccaneers for 5 years and $41.25 million ($8.25 mil per year), with $22 million guaranteed), and Glover Quin (signed by the Lions for 5 years and $23.5 million, with $5.25 guaranteed).
Ed Reed is 34 years old, just got done winning his
second first Super Bowl, and has played through injuries the past couple of years. It seems like he is the type of guy looking for one last contract to bolster his bank account before he retires. Reed is also an eight-time All Pro and a former Defensive Player of the Year; consequently, he will be looking forward to getting paid what his resume suggests he's worth, regardless of his age and injury history.
For the Texans to bring Reed to Houston, they will probably have to offer him two or three years at a base salary between $5-7 million a year; that's not even counting guaranteed money, which we all know is the key to any NFL contract. At that price tag, why not just resign Quin for a lower amount of $4.7 million per year? If the rationale is the silly argument that Quin would take up too much cap space and hurt the team's chances to resign J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Kareem Jackson in future years. Houston still should have signed him to the reasonable salary he received with Detroit and then cut or trade less valuable players to make up cap room. Does the Ed Reed at FS/Danieal Manning at SS combo make Houston any better than the centerfield they had last year? Probably not. Instead, Houston might get stuck with an older, less productive, more expensive player who will provide a bigger name, but not build a better team.
The second option Houston has now that Quin is gone is to bring someone up from within the organization to make the move to starting safety. As of right now, the pickings are between Shiloh Keo, a guy who should only play special teams, and Brandon Harris. Harris is an intriguing option at safety because of his size and physicality. Last year he was Jekyll and Hyde in coverage because of his inability to cover faster guys legally. He would start out in decent coverage, only to ruin it by grasping onto the opponent;s jersey whenever there was a small chance he was beaten. Harris occasionally made a couple of nice plays last year; when he did, he would make sure the whole world knew it. After every pass he knocked down, Harris would wave his arms like an air traffic controller to let everyone know he finally did something. Harris reminds me of another irrational confidence guy who used to play for the Texans--Dunta Robinson. Maybe the former second round pick can thrive in the safety position after a move from corner like Glover Quin did, but it's a big what-if to gamble on that in a league where the passing game has made the safety position a vital part of a defense.
The third, and mostly likely option in my opinion, is to pick a player in April to take control of the spot in training camp or to let him develop behind Ed Reed. This option makes me feel like Shaggy running from the Ghost of Captain Cutler because of Smith's track record in drafting defensive backs. Since becoming the GM in June 2006, he has taken twelve defensive backs in six drafts. They are as follows:
Seasons w/ HOU
Out of the twelve DBs Smith has drafted, only three of the them remain with the team (4, if they resign McCain). He consistently has taken DBs in the middle rounds of the draft, only for them to play limited snaps, not produce and leave to drink Gatorade on the sideline for another team two years later. He found some success in McCain and Bennett by using low risk picks that had a chance of high upside. When Smith actually used a first round pick on a DB, he did an exceptional job by selecting Kareem Jackson. But with holes at WR, NT, OT, and OLB, why waste a high pick when you already had exactly what you needed in Glover Quin?
The best player chosen from his middle round picks on DBs? It would be the center of this offseason tirade and the Holy Grail of Smith's draft strategy, Glover Quin. It just makes what was a head head-scratching decision turn into a scalping. After finally getting what he has been searching for all these years, Smith let him walk over $23.5 million. It would be like Smeagol finally grasping his long, deathlike bony fingers around the one ring he had spent all of his effort searching for, only to sell it at a garage sale years later for $5 and a sack of Lembas Bread. Based on Smith's track record and his draft tendencies, if you think there will be a viable replacement for Quin coming from the draft this year that can fill GQ's shoes, you are in dire need of a James Joyce-esque epiphany.
After witnessing the same conservative, do-nothing approach to an offseason months ago with the Texas Rangers, I am already tearing at my insides about the Texans' offseason thus far. They have not signed anyone besides Andrew Gardner. Not even depth signings. The roster is filled with tiny holes and question marks. None of the losses will compare to the hole Quin's departure leaves at safety. When Tom Brady is tearing Houston up in January because Reed is hurt and Brandon Harris gets torched, the entire state of Texas will be yelling "23.5!" in unison as remotes shatter against linoleum.