One of the two blockbuster moves your Houston Texans pulled off in 2019 involved sending a wheelbarrow full of draft capital to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills.
While Tunsil hasn’t proven to be Duane Brown in his prime just yet (he did lead the league in penalties last season), he’s certainly a far sight better than Matt Khalil or Julie’n Davenport, the two choices the Texans had to protect Deshaun Watson’s blind side before Tunsil came to town.
Indeed, in a single preseason play, the need to sign a better left tackle was spotlighted to the Nth degree when Dallas Cowboy Maliek Collins was allowed free reign in the Texans backfield, hitting running back Lamar Miller, who tore his ACL on the play - ending Miller’s 2019 campaign before it really got started.
Visions of the same thing happening to Watson probably drove Houston head coach and then de facto general manager Bill O’Brien to do anything and everything to upgrade the left side of the offensive line.
We’ll gloss over the rumors that the Tunsil acquisition started as a straight up trade of Jadeveon Clowney for Tunsil until Clowney refused to sigh his tender and move to Miami. We’ll also skip the arguments for and against giving up so much draft capital to get Tunsil; at the time the trade was made, it had to be done, and finding a team willing to even entertain the notion of giving up a young, Pro Bowl caliber left tackle is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
That’s in the past. Now it’s time for Cal McNair to open up the checkbook and let newly (officially) minted general manager Bill O’Brien spend millions of his family fortune. The current collective bargaining agreement hoopla has peeled back the curtain to some extent, giving fans and press alike a fresh view of the ongoing battle between players and teams. Longtime Tunsil teammate Kenny Stills put a not-so-fine point on it the other day:
That’s right, a yearly paycheck of $19-20 million per year, which would make Tunsil the highest paid offensive lineman in the game, is surely coming. For those who don’t want to do the math, that’s roughly 10% of the expected new $200 million salary cap.
With rosters allegedly increasing to 55 players from 53, handing over 10% of your cap to one guy—especially when said player is not a QB—is an attention-getter. What happens if Tunsil goes down in similar manner to Lamar Miller? Thankfully, second year lineman Max Scharping and Tytus Howard should contribute greatly to the offensive line’s improvement in 2020.
A team can’t plan on the worst. A guy like Tunsil is insurance for the expected payout to Deshaun Watson that should easily eclipse the $35 million/year mark. At that point you have two of your 55 guys getting over 25% of your cap space.
Yet what choice do the Texans have? Continue to flirt with high-end mediocrity for the next decade, or continue pushing chips to the middle of the table? The latter is really the only way they can go. Hopefully, since someone robbed Tunsil of millions on draft day, that won’t happen again and the young man can continue to grow and help transform Houston’s offensive line from a position of weakness into one of the team’s strengths.
First, the Brinks truck needs to back up to his house. Make the call, Bill.