We are almost eight weeks removed from when the infamous Bill O’Brien acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil tearing a ligament in his thumb. An injury initially reported to sideline him for “four weeks” is still being referred to as a day-to-day situation by Texans head coach David Culley. It’s understandable that you’d want to keep a blindside protector away from unnecessary harm with five agonizing weeks still ahead on the horizon for a two-win football team. However, this slow return from injury appears to be more of a player’s decision than the actual coaching staff.
Despite stating Tunsil was close to returning at the beginning of November, when the lineman served his minimum requirement on Injured Reserve, Culley has shifted his message to “wait and see”.
Laremy Tunsil timeline:— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) December 6, 2021
Nov. 1, "getting close" to returning.
Nov. 8, "we'll wait and see."
Nov. 17, returns to lifting weights.
Today, Dec. 6: "day-by-day"https://t.co/xPwRxEwou3
At the end of November, Culley stated in a press conference that he still hoped Tunsil would play again this year, implying that the team is not necessarily attempting to bubble-wrap him. When asked point blank if this was a personal decision or one based on medical advice, Culley said it was a “combination of things”. It is also worth mentioning that a UCL tear, which is what Tunsil suffered during the New England Patriots game, is very common in sports and typically has a relatively low amount of pain. Some players opt to play through it—as Tunsil originally said he would—instead of going in for surgery.
Tunsil has recovered from surgery, is lifting weights, and has been conditioning for nearly month. Despite all of this, there’s no indication he will be returning to the field this season.
David Culley said he hopes LT Laremy Tunsil (thumb) will play again this season.— Sarah Barshop (@sarahbarshop) November 29, 2021
It never felt like Tunsil was attached to the City of Houston after his trade, or attached to the game of football in general, honestly. The idea of holding out to use this as a chance to push himself into a better situation maybe be too enticing to turn down. The other alternative would be for him to toil for a rebuilding franchise during the prime of his career after Houston lost three of the team’s franchise players within two offseasons.
Tunsil holds a lot more leverage to maximize his value than a lot of his positional peers across the league. Any team that acquires the Pro Bowl left tackle will either need to ponder a potential extension or another restructure of his soon to be over $26 million dollar cap charge heading into next season. While Tunsil may not get another attempt to bend a Bill O’Brien type over the negotiating table, he will be in a good position to get another top of the market deal at the ripe age of twenty-eight.
Hypothetically speaking, if you were running another NFL franchise, would you be willing to give up draft capital knowing a serious financial commitment would be required on your part to a player who had far more than minimal leverage? More than likely, no. Which is why a deal, like the Baltimore Ravens trading Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs last year for a late first round pick, is not even a guarantee come draft night .
More than likely, I believe an early second round pick and some change would be the expected return for Tunsil. An early second round pick wouldn’t be too far off from the late first the Super Bowl runner-ups surrendered.