In 2019 Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans embarked on an offseason that has pushed them to the point they are today. A year after mismanaging and mangling their offensive line, an offseason after using a first and second round pick without finding a left tackle, and going into training camp with Matt Khalil as their left tackle, the Houston Texans were desperate. They wanted Laremy Tunsil. The Miami Dolphins didn’t want to trade Tunsil unless the terms were egregious. Week after week O’Brien became more desperate.
Eventually it boiled to the point of insanity. O’Brien gave up two first round picks, a second round pick, and Julien Davenport, for Laremy Tunsil, and Kenny Stills—if you forgot the second round pick was for Stills according to some. Left tackles are important, but they aren’t worth a draft haul of this magnitude and a $22 million dollar cap hit. That’s where the Texans found themselves after this trade.
Tunsil didn’t evolve the Houston Texans offense into great. It was barely even good in 2019 when they went all in to improve the line. Tunsil is a great pass protector who minimizes Yannick Ngakoue, when the Texans aren’t chipping for him, but is allergic to run blocking, meek and indifferent, he never proved the tenacity to go after defenders to move the line of scrimmage. The year after most were hoping for a better offensive line because of continuity, and this year they were hoping for a better offensive line because of a new offensive line coach in James Campen. None of these things rang true. Houston’s offensive line ranged from bad to underwhelming these last three years.
As a result, of the trade, Houston’s cabinet grew bare. They lacked top draft capital on cost effective contracts which forced Houston to lean on Jack Easterby to improve the roster through free agency, and now, without a franchise quarterback, the Texans have an old and awful roster, that lacks the typical resources teams use to get better.
Against New England, Tunsil lurched over in pain after tearing his UCL in his left thumb. Some players opt to play through the pain. Tunsil instead had surgery. The surgery was successful, and he was expected to miss a month. That was nine weeks ago. We haven’t seen, we haven’t heard from Tunsil since.
David Culley has wanted Tunsil to return to the lineup. Now his status has turned to noncommital on the matter. Tunsil is lifting weights, he’s doing things that should mean he could football, but instead is on the sideline. Not even Culley knows if Tunsil will play for Houston again this season.
This is a blessing in disguise. Losing Tunsil eventually forced the Texans to give up on their really stupid Howard at left guard experiment. Rather than play a young player at a premium position where he has excelled as a pass protector, with issues in the run game, the Texans moved him to guard to solidify the left side of their line, and give Marcus Cannon the chance to start at right tackle. Howard was fine in pass protection at this position, but still had his problems moving defenders off the line of scrimmage, and getting to the second level, especially in the outside zone game. The left side was far from the Pro Bowl unit they envisioned.
Nick Caserio acquiesced. Without Tunsil, the Texans benched Geron Christian Jr. and moved Howard to left tackle. There, at this position, he’s been a plus pass protector on the left side, and the Texans haven’t missed Tunsil at all.
With Tunsil sitting out, and facing a $26 million cap hit the next two years, thanks to a silly contract restructure, the Texans face two options. Extend Tunsil—someone who doesn’t even want to play football—to another long term contract, or trade him to a left tackle needy team like Carolina, or Jacksonville, for a 2022 second round pick, or for a 2023 first round pick. There said team can extend Tunsil if they don’t want to pay his $17.5 million base salary.
Howard is entering the fourth year of his career. Based on his performance at left tackle it’s clear. Tunsil doesn’t need to be here. He isn’t worth the contract he has. The Texans would be better off recouping draft picks for a player who wasn’t worth the trade they made for him, or the contract he currently has, and replacing him for a younger player who’s provided a similar level of performance.
Sink the cost. Set fire to the ship. It’s time to move on.