After yesterday, the Texans are in a strange spot. They have less than $40 million in cap space and have more questions then answers now that unofficial free agency is over. Can they get Brock Osweiler to leave Denver? How much will Kelechi Osemele affect Brandon Brooks' contract? What will Houston's offensive line look like without Ben Jones? Will Lamar Miller be had for less than the $8 million per year he's asking for? Has the option to resign DeAndre Hopkins dissipated? Will Rick Smith make any more cuts to free up space?
Right now, Houston and Denver are the front runners to sign Osweiler.
Denver and Houston shape up as the two primary potential landing spots for free-agent QB Brock Osweiler.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 8, 2016
Reports are that Osweiler has already turned down a three-year, $45 million contract from Denver because Osweiler thirsts for the opportunity to make hundreds of millions of dollars instead of tens of millions of dollars.
Rapoport added that the Broncos will have to sweeten their current contract offer to Osweiler to likely keep him in The Mile High City. On Saturday, Denver offered him a three-year deal worth up to $45 million, but Rapoport said Osweiler will not accept the offer since he would not be in position to renegotiate if he had a better-than-expected 2016 campaign.
This is a case where you don't want to overpay for a small sample size. But with the 22nd pick, the top quarterbacks probably being gone by that point, and the current quarterback situation, I could see Houston overpaying Osweiler.
The issue here for Houston is that the contract Denver offered is reasonable. Denver's offer brings stability for a few years and allows the team to still surround the roster with talent if it works out. If it doesn't, it won't handicap them. There's also the option linked above where a team offers a large lump sum this season like a franchise tag. Then, next offseason, if Osweiler plays better than expected, he could force the incumbent team to pay more than that because not having a quarterback is very scary thing. I would guess the 3 year/$45 million option is the type of contract that he signs and Houston will probably have to offer more than that to snatch him from Denver.
If the Texans do sign Osweiler for $15+ million a year, would it be worth it? Osweiler put up numbers similar to Brian Hoyer and Teddy Bridgewater according to DVOA and DYAR. The difference between him and Hoyer is that Hoyer has fully evolved and Oswelier is 25 years old, was the backup this season, and was fine when he did start in Manning's shadow. This is a case where the scouting and film study offer more to this decision than the numbers. Before asserting an opinion here I'd have to go back and watch all of his starts from this season.
Texans have zeroed in on trying to land Lamar Miller, at projected cost of $6.5 million per year: https://t.co/BFFc3mLb05— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 9, 2016
Aside from quarterback, the biggest problem with Houston's offense is the lack of speed. Their players are middling and can't do things like break tackles are take off in open space. Lamar Miller ran a 4.4 40. He runs fast. This is something no one on the offense can do except for change of pace back Akeem Hunt. Miller immediately offers something Houston desperately needs.
Additionally, Miller is 25 years old, has played in 16 games the last three seasons, can catch passes, and the most carries he's had in a season is 216. He's one of the rare running backs you can describe as underused.
The production is there, too. In 2014, he finished third in DVOA (17.8%), 4th in DYAR (246), and 18th in both categories in 2015 while averaging 5.1 and 4.5 yards per carry. Usually I'm against dumping resources into the running back position. Late round draft picks and picked over players can offer value and fill this position easily. For every Melvin Gordon, there is a David Johnson or Thomas Rawls. For every DeMarco Murray, there is a Justin Forsett. But if you are going to pay $6 million a year for a running back, this is exactly what you want. A fresh, young player with an explosive skill set and a history of production. The one thing that worries me is that Miller fumbled three times the last two seasons, which may lead to Alfred Blue stealing carries from him.
The Offensive Line:
The best guard on the market is getting $12 million a year. Brandon Brooks is now the best player available and will probably get somewhere between $7-8 million at the very least. Ben Jones has left to sign a four year deal in Tennessee. Chris Clark has resigned with Houston.
For the Texans, this means:
-Brandon Brooks is going to get paid a million or three more than what was expected. Heading into this offseason, it was assumed he'd get about $6 million per year, but the Osemele signing bumped it up a little bit more. I think Brooks is worth it for Houston, especially since they don't have any backup options. Brooks is great at moving the first level, works beautifully with Derek Newton, and sets the pocket in pass protection. Additionally, if he leaves, Derek Newton's heart is going to break and he will never be the same. I mean, who's going to go fishing with him?
@D_Newt75 we going fishing next week or what?— Brandon Brooks (@bbrooks_79) February 26, 2016
Hearing that #Texans G Brandon Brooks could be getting in range of $8M per season on the market. Multiple teams interested.— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) March 7, 2016
-Ben Jones leaving on the other hand doesn't mean much, especially if Houston resigns Brooks. Jones is average. He has never gotten strong enough to be anything more than that and is a tad bit slow. His one endearing quality is that he took every snap at center this season and offers reliable consistency. Houston can find a similar or better player later in the draft or in free agency once things settle down some.
Sources around league tell me Ben Jones will sign with Titans. 4 year deal— barry warner (@bearwarner) March 8, 2016
-Chris Clark resigning with Houston is good news... if he stays as a third tackle. Clark is a fine pass protector. He mirrors well and has quick feet. His problem is that he lacks strength. He's easily beaten by bull rushes and has issues in the run game. The one scenario that is possible is that he plays right tackle and they move Newton to guard if Brooks leaves. From there, the Texans can find a center in FA or draft one. This scenario is plausible, but not optimal.
#Texans reach a contract agreement with offensive tackle Chris Clark— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) March 9, 2016
Also it is worth mentioning David Quessenberry real fast. Some are expecting him to be an option at guard, center or tackle. He's a great story. For anyone to go what he has gone through is incredible. It is even more so to do that and play professional football. The thing is that he's a sixth round pick and isn't all that talented. If he does anything, it should be a surprise. There's no reason to expect anything from him other than depth.
DeAndre Hopkins Re-Signing:
The Texans will probably wait until next summer to resign Hopkins now. Because of the rising salary cap and the billion dollars teams had in cap space this offseason, the Texans will have to spend more than they want to improve the roster. I was hoping for the Texans to sign Hopkins today, yesterday, months ago. That's how important he is to this offense. The way the quarterback situation has gone, it is best to lock him down now and trick him into staying before he can change his mind. Shhhhhh... it's going to be okay here. Just trust us. Look for this to be something to keep tabs on after the draft instead of wishful thinking for the present.
With players getting so much money they need three hands to count it, the Texans will have to spend more. In order to create more cap space, they can cut additional players than the ones they should've and already did cut.
They can cut:
-Akeem Dent ($2.187 million saved): He isn't good and shouldn't see any playing time ever. Benardrick McKinney locked down the #2 ILB position. Dent would only play if Brian Cushing went down with an injury again and even then, I'd rather see Barrett Ruud or Tim Dobbins called in rather than Dent.
-Vince Wilfork ($4 million saved): Wilfork was really bad this season. He couldn't take on double teams. Centers pushed him on their own. He's lost his spryness and can't make plays on the ball carrier. He doesn't have the ability to do what he needs to do to be a productive player. Also, McKinney and Cushing mitigate the need to pay a nose tackle this much money.
It's a similar issue like what the Texans have in Brian Hoyer. The unknown and having a hole at the position is scarier than keeping the average at best they currently have. Yet, if they need the cap space, cutting Wilfork and drafting a goliath early in a deep defensive line class would be a better option than paying someone who's best quality is his overalls.
-Brian Hoyer: ($5 million saved): You can win with Hoyer, but not because of him. The Texans need a quarterback they can win because of if they ever want to be more than the best team in a bad division. Look for him to get cut if the Texans come to terms with anyone in free agency. If they don't, he will be back next year.
Together this would create an extra $11 million in space. This amounts to one top free agent or two starters. I know I would rather have Brandon Brooks back and see a nose tackle in the second round than Vince Wilfork remain on this roster. I know I would rather see Tom Savage/mystery drafted QB/RGIII or Osweiler than knowing what you can get with Brian Hoyer.
Now that you are caught up, follow along at BRB while the news breaks:
Travis Benjamin and Marvin Jones
The WR market will shake out today, but as of late last night, the #Chargers had emerged as the team to beat for WR Travis Benjamin.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2016
Additionally, Marvin Jones signed with the Lions for $8 million a year to fill Calvin Johnson's un-fillable shoes. The Texans need a second wide receiver if they still don't trust Jaelen Strong.The other receiving options available are older players like Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, and Roddy White who aren't good anymore, has beens like Mike Wallace and Percy Harvin, and some intriguing guys like Rishard Matthews, Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Kearse. If the Texans do opt to find a receiver in free agency they should look to the latter group and find someone who brings speed and deep threat ability.
Got another story or rumor we missed? Leave it in the Comments. In the meantime, share your thoughts on the comings and goings of the first day of the free agent frenzy.