The Houston Texans should have signed Gerald McCoy. They didn’t. In fact, they didn’t even pursue him. Cincinnati and Indianapolis were after him, though the list dwindled to just Cleveland, Baltimore, and now his new home, Carolina. McCoy chose Carolina because he wanted to stay in the south and play against his former team, which just so happened to immediately gave his number away to Ndamukong Suh.
Texas is the most southern state in the entire country. Houston plays in Tampa Bay this year. These are both itches the Texans could have scratched for McCoy if, you, know, they actually attempted to sign him.
One thing that became clear in this process: Gerald McCoy wanted to stay in the South, where it’s familiar, rather than Baltimore or Cleveland. Loved both teams, wasn’t sure about both cities. That and the chance to play against his former team twice...— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 3, 2019
The Texans have around $40 million in cap space, but even that enormous amount doesn’t matter. McCoy signed a one-year $8 million deal with incentives that can get the deal up to $10 million. That’s a contract just about any team in the league could afford and a contract the Texans could have easily exceeded. One year, $12.5 million, with $10 million guaranteed...who cares at this point?
The full breakdown of Gerald McCoy’s deal with the #Panthers: 1 year, $4M to sign, $3M base, $500K camp roster bonus, $500K in 45-man per game bonus. Plus, 6.5 sacks for $500k, 8 sacks gets him $1.5M. 250K for Pro Bowl, $250K for playoffs. Just $4M guaranteed. Total: Up $10.25M.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 3, 2019
McCoy has been named to the Pro Bowl six times in his nine-year career. He is 31 years old this season, exiting the prime of his career. Even then, in a down season, McCoy was still good for 20+ pressures, 20+ quarterback hits, and 6 sacks in 2018. He was Tampa’s only interior presence and played on the worst defense in football last season. It’s hard to imagine him not sustaining the same level of production on a different team with better talent surrounding him. The Panthers just made one of the best free agent signings this offseason.
McCoy would have been instrumental in Houston, and not just because of his great production. Because of need. The Texans don’t have an interior pass rush unless Jadeveon Clowney, who is still holding out, is dive bombing as a stand-up linebacker, or J.J. Watt moves inside as a 4i pass rusher (which Houston doesn’t want to do, so they can keep him fresh in as many one-on-one matchups as possible). McCoy accounted for more sacks last season than Angelo Blackson, D.J. Reader, Joel Heath, and Brandon Dunn have in their entire careers. All of those Texans are competent run defenders, but none of them can rush the passer.
Houston’s pass rush once again this season is going to be Watt and Clowney. That’s it. The young, late drafted picks have never shown some future potential, aside from Duke Ejiofor, who was placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the 2019 season, and Duke’s potential is derived from some sweet spin moves at Wake Forest. The Texans’ third best pass rusher, Whitney Mercilus, was useless and schemed out of the defense last season as a wide edge rusher. With Watt and Clowney lined up on the tackle’s outside shoulder, Mercilus’ hand and rip game is negated. Unless they change things up, Mercilus will once again be an afterthought in Houston.
The secondary will be better this year. Bradley Roby over Shareece Wright is an incredible difference, but Roby is still not a player you want as your best cornerback. Johnathan Joseph is fine, but he struggles against speedsters and deep routes. The safety play here should be even better as well. But the Texans still don’t know who their slot corner is, the cornerback talent is average at best, and Lonnie Johnson Jr. is not someone to count on for this season. Like 2018, the success of Houston’s pass defense is all about Watt and Clowney, and the Texans will rely on them again this season.
Additionally, even if the Texans were being led by a great pass defense, they should still look to improve it. Look at their schedule. Holy crap. The worst quarterback they face is Joe Flacco. You can talk down Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Lamar Jackson, but all three should be better this season, with Carr having better receivers, Winston having better coaching, and Jackson having another season to grow. This season, the Texans also face Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, and Marcus Mariota/Ryan Tannehill.
The Texans didn’t sign a player they should have signed despite it being a no-brainer. Houston would have met McCoy’s needs. They could have paid him more than what Carolina offered. They would have added a great interior rusher, something they don’t have, for cheap. Instead, the team is in the same position as last season. The pass rush and pass defense will rely on Watt and Clowney to stay healthy, to get to the quarterback consistently, something that has happened just once since Clowney arrived in 2014.