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Bill Barnwell’s Five Offseason Moves To Fix The Houston Texans

Here’s how Mr. ESPN NFL would fix the Houston Texans.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last week we unofficially officially kicked off the Texans’ offseason with plans, podcasts, and Jadeveon Clowney franchise tag discussion. I offered my offseason plan for Houston. BFD and I previewed it in a podcast. We put hoses in our heads and sucked the goop out to provide Clowney franchise tag input. That was our work. Bill Barnwell at ESPN, formerly of Football Outsiders, formerly of Grantland, offered five moves each team should make to improve their team in 2019. Click the link for the entirety of his analysis. These were his five moves to fix the Texans:

1. Franchise Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans don’t want to lose Clowney, nor should they. The 2014 No. 1 overall pick has made it to three consecutive Pro Bowls and just turned 26. He has completed only one full 16-game season as a pro, but the microfracture surgery on his right knee that cost the South Carolina product most of his rookie season hasn’t been a problem since. Clowney has missed six games over the past four seasons, undergoing two subsequent arthroscopic surgeries on his other knee.

At the same time, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Clowney hasn’t yet put together the sort of massive season that seems natural for a defender who looks as dominant on the football field as he is. Fifty different defenders have racked up at least one double-digit sack campaign since the beginning of the 2014 season, but Clowney isn’t one of them.

He has come close in each of the past two seasons, hitting 9.5 sacks in 2017 and getting to nine last season. But on his game, he looks like the sort of defender who should be annually flirting with Defensive Player of the Year honors. His knockdown totals don’t suggest a player who has been trading in bad luck, either. Using the 45 percent rule, Clowney’s 67 knockdowns over the past four seasons imply he should have racked up about 30 sacks over that time frame. He has recorded 29.

I’m not saying this to disparage Clowney. I would hardly be surprised if he put together a 15-sack season in 2019. Nobody would be. I bring this up to illustrate how difficult his contract negotiations might be. Edge rushers are paid to rack up sacks, and Clowney’s 29 sacks rank 27th over the past four seasons. The Texans might very well point to his production as closer to good than great and suggest he’s worth something below the five-year, $72 million extension that Danielle Hunter signed last year. (Hunter, for what it’s worth, has 40 sacks over those four years.)

Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney could get franchise tagged by the Texans if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

On the open market, though, Clowney would get to negotiate with 31 teams. At least one of those teams would be willing to take the plunge and pay him on his potential, expecting him to put up those 15-sack seasons his tape hints toward. On the open market, Clowney might get something closer to a five-year, $100 million deal with $60 million in guarantees, which would top every other edge rusher contract in the NFL short of Khalil Mack. You can bet Clowney’s representation knows this. The Texans have to negotiate against that possibility. Going year to year with Clowney with franchise tags would cost the Texans around $68 million over the next three years, so there’s no savings there, either.

The Texans will start with a franchise tag north of $17 million in 2019 and go from there. I think they’ll eventually come to terms on an extension, if only because a long-term deal makes sense for both sides. This is going to be a more difficult negotiation than most other franchise tag extensions.

2. Re-sign Tyrann Mathieu.

3. Clean up the cornerback position.

4. Add a receiver, not Le’Veon Bell.

5. Add help at offensive tackle.

Read all 1,000+ words I didn’t feel comfortable copy and pasting. Come up with your own conclusions. What do you think of his plan? Do you think this would make Houston a better football team come August 2019?